Speech and text are two major forms of human language. The research community has been focusing on mapping speech to text or vice versa for many years. However, in the field of language modeling, very little effort has been made to model them jointly. In light of this, we explore joint language modeling for speech units and text. Specifically, we compare different speech tokenizers to transform continuous speech signals into discrete units and use different methods to construct mixed speech-text data. We introduce automatic metrics to evaluate how well the joint LM mixes speech and text. We also fine-tune the LM on downstream spoken language understanding (SLU) tasks with different modalities (speech or text) and test its performance to assess the model's learning of shared representations. Our results show that by mixing speech units and text with our proposed mixing techniques, the joint LM improves over a speech-only baseline on SLU tasks and shows zero-shot cross-modal transferability.
We study phrase structure induction from visually-grounded speech. The core idea is to first segment the speech waveform into sequences of word segments, and subsequently induce phrase structure using the inferred segment-level continuous representations. We present the Audio-Visual Neural Syntax Learner (AV-NSL) that learns phrase structure by listening to audio and looking at images, without ever being exposed to text. By training on paired images and spoken captions, AV-NSL exhibits the capability to infer meaningful phrase structures that are comparable to those derived by naturally-supervised text parsers, for both English and German. Our findings extend prior work in unsupervised language acquisition from speech and grounded grammar induction, and present one approach to bridge the gap between the two topics.
Recent work on speech representation models jointly pre-trained with text has demonstrated the potential of improving speech representations by encoding speech and text in a shared space. In this paper, we leverage such shared representations to address the persistent challenge of limited data availability in spoken language understanding tasks. By employing a pre-trained speech-text model, we find that models fine-tuned on text can be effectively transferred to speech testing data. With as little as 1 hour of labeled speech data, our proposed approach achieves comparable performance on spoken language understanding tasks (specifically, sentiment analysis and named entity recognition) when compared to previous methods using speech-only pre-trained models fine-tuned on 10 times more data. Beyond the proof-of-concept study, we also analyze the latent representations. We find that the bottom layers of speech-text models are largely task-agnostic and align speech and text representations into a shared space, while the top layers are more task-specific.
Speech enhancement systems are typically trained using pairs of clean and noisy speech. In audio-visual speech enhancement (AVSE), there is not as much ground-truth clean data available; most audio-visual datasets are collected in real-world environments with background noise and reverberation, hampering the development of AVSE. In this work, we introduce AV2Wav, a resynthesis-based audio-visual speech enhancement approach that can generate clean speech despite the challenges of real-world training data. We obtain a subset of nearly clean speech from an audio-visual corpus using a neural quality estimator, and then train a diffusion model on this subset to generate waveforms conditioned on continuous speech representations from AV-HuBERT with noise-robust training. We use continuous rather than discrete representations to retain prosody and speaker information. With this vocoding task alone, the model can perform speech enhancement better than a masking-based baseline. We further fine-tune the diffusion model on clean/noisy utterance pairs to improve the performance. Our approach outperforms a masking-based baseline in terms of both automatic metrics and a human listening test and is close in quality to the target speech in the listening test. Audio samples can be found at https://home.ttic.edu/~jcchou/demo/avse/avse_demo.html.
This paper presents an in-depth analysis of various self-supervision methods for isolated sign language recognition (ISLR). We consider four recently introduced transformer-based approaches to self-supervised learning from videos, and four pre-training data regimes, and study all the combinations on the WLASL2000 dataset. Our findings reveal that MaskFeat achieves performance superior to pose-based and supervised video models, with a top-1 accuracy of 79.02% on gloss-based WLASL2000. Furthermore, we analyze these models' ability to produce representations of ASL signs using linear probing on diverse phonological features. This study underscores the value of architecture and pre-training task choices in ISLR. Specifically, our results on WLASL2000 highlight the power of masked reconstruction pre-training, and our linear probing results demonstrate the importance of hierarchical vision transformers for sign language representation.
Many self-supervised speech models (S3Ms) have been introduced over the last few years, producing performance and data efficiency improvements for a variety of speech tasks. Evidence is emerging that different S3Ms encode linguistic information in different layers, and also that some S3Ms appear to learn phone-like sub-word units. However, the extent to which these models capture larger linguistic units, such as words, and where word-related information is encoded, remains unclear. In this study, we conduct several analyses of word segment representations extracted from different layers of three S3Ms: wav2vec2, HuBERT, and WavLM. We employ canonical correlation analysis (CCA), a lightweight analysis tool, to measure the similarity between these representations and word-level linguistic properties. We find that the maximal word-level linguistic content tends to be found in intermediate model layers, while some lower-level information like pronunciation is also retained in higher layers of HuBERT and WavLM. Syntactic and semantic word attributes have similar layer-wise behavior. We also find that, for all of the models tested, word identity information is concentrated near the center of each word segment. We then test the layer-wise performance of the same models, when used directly with no additional learned parameters, on several tasks: acoustic word discrimination, word segmentation, and semantic sentence similarity. We find similar layer-wise trends in performance, and furthermore, find that when using the best-performing layer of HuBERT or WavLM, it is possible to achieve performance on word segmentation and sentence similarity that rivals more complex existing approaches.
Spoken language understanding (SLU) tasks have been studied for many decades in the speech research community, but have not received as much attention as lower-level tasks like speech and speaker recognition. In particular, there are not nearly as many SLU task benchmarks, and many of the existing ones use data that is not freely available to all researchers. Recent work has begun to introduce such benchmark datasets for several tasks. In this work, we introduce several new annotated SLU benchmark tasks based on freely available speech data, which complement existing benchmarks and address gaps in the SLU evaluation landscape. We contribute four tasks: question answering and summarization involve inference over longer speech sequences; named entity localization addresses the speech-specific task of locating the targeted content in the signal; dialog act classification identifies the function of a given speech utterance. We follow the blueprint of the Spoken Language Understanding Evaluation (SLUE) benchmark suite. In order to facilitate the development of SLU models that leverage the success of pre-trained speech representations, we will be publishing for each task (i) annotations for a relatively small fine-tuning set, (ii) annotated development and test sets, and (iii) baseline models for easy reproducibility and comparisons. In this work, we present the details of data collection and annotation and the performance of the baseline models. We also perform sensitivity analysis of pipeline models' performance (speech recognizer + text model) to the speech recognition accuracy, using more than 20 state-of-the-art speech recognition models.
Self-supervised pre-trained transformers have improved the state of the art on a variety of speech tasks. Due to the quadratic time and space complexity of self-attention, they usually operate at the level of relatively short (e.g., utterance) segments. In this paper, we study the use of context, i.e., surrounding segments, during fine-tuning and propose a new approach called context-aware fine-tuning. We attach a context module on top of the last layer of a pre-trained model to encode the whole segment into a context embedding vector which is then used as an additional feature for the final prediction. During the fine-tuning stage, we introduce an auxiliary loss that encourages this context embedding vector to be similar to context vectors of surrounding segments. This allows the model to make predictions without access to these surrounding segments at inference time and requires only a tiny overhead compared to standard fine-tuned models. We evaluate the proposed approach using the SLUE and Librilight benchmarks for several downstream tasks: Automatic speech recognition (ASR), named entity recognition (NER), and sentiment analysis (SA). The results show that context-aware fine-tuning not only outperforms a standard fine-tuning baseline but also rivals a strong context injection baseline that uses neighboring speech segments during inference.
Many self-supervised speech models, varying in their pre-training objective, input modality, and pre-training data, have been proposed in the last few years. Despite impressive empirical successes on downstream tasks, we still have a limited understanding of the properties encoded by the models and the differences across models. In this work, we examine the intermediate representations for a variety of recent models. Specifically, we measure acoustic, phonetic, and word-level properties encoded in individual layers, using a lightweight analysis tool based on canonical correlation analysis (CCA). We find that these properties evolve across layers differently depending on the model, and the variations relate to the choice of pre-training objective. We further investigate the utility of our analyses for downstream tasks by comparing the property trends with performance on speech recognition and spoken language understanding tasks. We discover that CCA trends provide reliable guidance to choose layers of interest for downstream tasks and that single-layer performance often matches or improves upon using all layers, suggesting implications for more efficient use of pre-trained models.
Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIG-bench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 442 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI's GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit "breakthrough" behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.