Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?

Date:
November 18, 2010
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
A better understanding of how we use acoustic cues to stress new information and put old information in the background may help computer programmers produce more realistic-sounding speech.

A better understanding of how we use acoustic cues to stress new information and put old information in the background may help computer programmers produce more realistic-sounding speech. Dr. Michael Wagner, a researcher in McGill's Department of Linguistics, has compared the way French- and English-speakers evaluate poetry, as a way of finding evidence for a systematic difference in how the two languages use these cues.

"Voice synthesis has become quite impressive in terms of the pronunciation of individual words," Wagner explained. "But when a computer 'speaks,' whole sentences still sound artificial because of the complicated way we put emphasis on parts of them, depending on context and what we want to get across."

A first step to understanding this complexity is to gain better knowledge of how we decide where to put emphasis. This is where poetry comes into play. Wagner has looked at prosody, which means the rhythm, stress and intonation of speech. Poetry relies heavily on prosody, and by making a comparison between languages, he is able to uncover how prosody functions differently in English and French.

Working with Katherine McCurdy at Harvard University, Wagner recently published research that examined the use of identical rhymes in each language. "These are rhymes in which the stressed syllables do not just rhyme, but are identical, such as write/right or attire/retire," Wagner explained. "It is commonly used in French poetry, while in English poetry it is considered to be unconventional and even unacceptable." Wagner gave the following example from a book by John Hollander:

The weakest way in which two words can chime Is with the most expected kind of rhyme -- (If it's the only rhyme that you can write, A homophone will never sound quite right.)

The study shows that identical rhymes fit into a general pattern that also applies outside of poetry: even when repeated words differ in meaning and merely sound the same, the repeated information should be acoustically reduced, otherwise it sounds distinctly odd. "It's sort of a bug of the way English uses prosody," Wagner said, "but one that hardly ever creates a problem, because it occurs so rarely in natural speech." Wagner is now working on a model that makes better predictions about where emphasis should fall in a sentence given the discourse context. His findings were published in the journal Cognition and received funding Quebec's Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture and a Canada Research Chair in Speech and Language Processing grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Wagner, Katherine McCurdy. Poetic rhyme reflects cross-linguistic differences in information structure. Cognition, 2010; 117 (2): 166 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.007

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm>.
McGill University. (2010, November 18). What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm
McGill University. "What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins