Recently, self-supervised learning (SSL) from unlabelled speech data has gained increased attention in the automatic speech recognition (ASR) community. Typical SSL methods include autoregressive predictive coding (APC), Wav2vec2.0, and hidden unit BERT (HuBERT). However, SSL models are biased to the pretraining data. When SSL models are finetuned with data from another domain, domain shifting occurs and might cause limited knowledge transfer for downstream tasks. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, domain responsible adaptation and finetuning (DRAFT), to reduce domain shifting in pretrained speech models, and evaluate it for a causal and non-causal transformer. For the causal transformer, an extension of APC (E-APC) is proposed to learn richer information from unlabelled data by using multiple temporally-shifted sequences to perform prediction. For the non-causal transformer, various solutions for using the bidirectional APC (Bi-APC) are investigated. In addition, the DRAFT framework is examined for Wav2vec2.0 and HuBERT methods, which use non-causal transformers as the backbone. The experiments are conducted on child ASR (using the OGI and MyST databases) using SSL models trained with unlabelled adult speech data from Librispeech. The relative WER improvements of up to 19.7% on the two child tasks are observed when compared to the pretrained models without adaptation. With the proposed methods (E-APC and DRAFT), the relative WER improvements are even larger (30% and 19% on the OGI and MyST data, respectively) when compared to the models without using pretraining methods.
Recently, end-to-end models have been widely used in automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems. Two of the most representative approaches are connectionist temporal classification (CTC) and attention-based encoder-decoder (AED) models. Autoregressive transformers, variants of AED, adopt an autoregressive mechanism for token generation and thus are relatively slow during inference. In this paper, we present a comprehensive study of a CTC Alignment-based Single-Step Non-Autoregressive Transformer (CASS-NAT) for end-to-end ASR. In CASS-NAT, word embeddings in the autoregressive transformer (AT) are substituted with token-level acoustic embeddings (TAE) that are extracted from encoder outputs with the acoustical boundary information offered by the CTC alignment. TAE can be obtained in parallel, resulting in a parallel generation of output tokens. During training, Viterbi-alignment is used for TAE generation, and multiple training strategies are further explored to improve the word error rate (WER) performance. During inference, an error-based alignment sampling method is investigated in depth to reduce the alignment mismatch in the training and testing processes. Experimental results show that the CASS-NAT has a WER that is close to AT on various ASR tasks, while providing a ~24x inference speedup. With and without self-supervised learning, we achieve new state-of-the-art results for non-autoregressive models on several datasets. We also analyze the behavior of the CASS-NAT decoder to explain why it can perform similarly to AT. We find that TAEs have similar functionality to word embeddings for grammatical structures, which might indicate the possibility of learning some semantic information from TAEs without a language model.
Masked language model (MLM) has been widely used for understanding tasks, e.g. BERT. Recently, MLM has also been used for generation tasks. The most popular one in speech is using Mask-CTC for non-autoregressive speech recognition. In this paper, we take one step further, and explore the possibility of using MLM as a non-autoregressive spell correction (SC) model for transformer-transducer (TT), denoted as MLM-SC. Our initial experiments show that MLM-SC provides no improvements on Librispeech data. The problem might be the choice of modeling units (word pieces) and the inaccuracy of the TT confidence scores for English data. To solve the problem, we propose a mask sample decoding (MS-decode) method where the masked tokens can have the choice of being masked or not to compensate for the inaccuracy. As a result, we reduce the WER of a streaming TT from 7.6% to 6.5% on the Librispeech test-other data and the CER from 7.3% to 6.1% on the Aishell test data, respectively.
In this work, we present a simple but effective method, CTCBERT, for advancing hidden-unit BERT (HuBERT). HuBERT applies a frame-level cross-entropy (CE) loss, which is similar to most acoustic model training. However, CTCBERT performs the model training with the Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) objective after removing duplicated IDs in each masked region. The idea stems from the observation that there can be significant errors in alignments when using clustered or aligned IDs. CTC learns alignments implicitly, indicating that learning with CTC can be more flexible when misalignment exists. We examine CTCBERT on IDs from HuBERT Iter1, HuBERT Iter2, and PBERT. The CTC training brings consistent improvements compared to the CE training. Furthermore, when loading blank-related parameters during finetuning, slight improvements are observed. Evaluated on the Librispeech 960-100h setting, the relative WER improvements of CTCBERT are 2%-11% over HuBERT and PERT on test-other data.
Self-supervised learning (SSL) in the pretraining stage using un-annotated speech data has been successful in low-resource automatic speech recognition (ASR) tasks. However, models trained through SSL are biased to the pretraining data which is usually different from the data used in finetuning tasks, causing a domain shifting problem, and thus resulting in limited knowledge transfer. We propose a novel framework, domain responsible adaptation and finetuning (DRAFT), to reduce domain shifting in pretrained speech models through an additional adaptation stage. In DRAFT, residual adapters (RAs) are inserted in the pretrained model to learn domain-related information with the same SSL loss as the pretraining stage. Only RA parameters are updated during the adaptation stage. DRAFT is agnostic to the type of SSL method used and is evaluated with three widely used approaches: APC, Wav2vec2.0, and HuBERT. On two child ASR tasks (OGI and MyST databases), using SSL models trained with un-annotated adult speech data (Librispeech), relative WER improvements of up to 19.7% are observed when compared to the pretrained models without adaptation. Additional experiments examined the potential of cross knowledge transfer between the two datasets and the results are promising, showing a broader usage of the proposed DRAFT framework.
Children's automatic speech recognition (ASR) is always difficult due to, in part, the data scarcity problem, especially for kindergarten-aged kids. When data are scarce, the model might overfit to the training data, and hence good starting points for training are essential. Recently, meta-learning was proposed to learn model initialization (MI) for ASR tasks of different languages. This method leads to good performance when the model is adapted to an unseen language. However, MI is vulnerable to overfitting on training tasks (learner overfitting). It is also unknown whether MI generalizes to other low-resource tasks. In this paper, we validate the effectiveness of MI in children's ASR and attempt to alleviate the problem of learner overfitting. To achieve model-agnostic meta-learning (MAML), we regard children's speech at each age as a different task. In terms of learner overfitting, we propose a task-level augmentation method by simulating new ages using frequency warping techniques. Detailed experiments are conducted to show the impact of task augmentation on each age for kindergarten-aged speech. As a result, our approach achieves a relative word error rate (WER) improvement of 51% over the baseline system with no augmentation or initialization.
This paper proposes a novel linear prediction coding-based data aug-mentation method for children's low and zero resource dialect ASR. The data augmentation procedure consists of perturbing the formant peaks of the LPC spectrum during LPC analysis and reconstruction. The method is evaluated on two novel children's speech datasets with one containing California English from the Southern CaliforniaArea and the other containing a mix of Southern American English and African American English from the Atlanta, Georgia area. We test the proposed method in training both an HMM-DNN system and an end-to-end system to show model-robustness and demonstrate that the algorithm improves ASR performance, especially for zero resource dialect children's task, as compared to common data augmentation methods such as VTLP, Speed Perturbation, and SpecAugment.
Non-autoregressive mechanisms can significantly decrease inference time for speech transformers, especially when the single step variant is applied. Previous work on CTC alignment-based single step non-autoregressive transformer (CASS-NAT) has shown a large real time factor (RTF) improvement over autoregressive transformers (AT). In this work, we propose several methods to improve the accuracy of the end-to-end CASS-NAT, followed by performance analyses. First, convolution augmented self-attention blocks are applied to both the encoder and decoder modules. Second, we propose to expand the trigger mask (acoustic boundary) for each token to increase the robustness of CTC alignments. In addition, iterated loss functions are used to enhance the gradient update of low-layer parameters. Without using an external language model, the WERs of the improved CASS-NAT, when using the three methods, are 3.1%/7.2% on Librispeech test clean/other sets and the CER is 5.4% on the Aishell1 test set, achieving a 7%~21% relative WER/CER improvement. For the analyses, we plot attention weight distributions in the decoders to visualize the relationships between token-level acoustic embeddings. When the acoustic embeddings are visualized, we find that they have a similar behavior to word embeddings, which explains why the improved CASS-NAT performs similarly to AT.
This paper describes the SPAPL system for the INTERSPEECH 2021 Challenge: Shared Task on Automatic Speech Recognition for Non-Native Children's Speech in German. ~ 5 hours of transcribed data and ~ 60 hours of untranscribed data are provided to develop a German ASR system for children. For the training of the transcribed data, we propose a non-speech state discriminative loss (NSDL) to mitigate the influence of long-duration non-speech segments within speech utterances. In order to explore the use of the untranscribed data, various approaches are implemented and combined together to incrementally improve the system performance. First, bidirectional autoregressive predictive coding (Bi-APC) is used to learn initial parameters for acoustic modelling using the provided untranscribed data. Second, incremental semi-supervised learning is further used to iteratively generate pseudo-transcribed data. Third, different data augmentation schemes are used at different training stages to increase the variability and size of the training data. Finally, a recurrent neural network language model (RNNLM) is used for rescoring. Our system achieves a word error rate (WER) of 39.68% on the evaluation data, an approximately 12% relative improvement over the official baseline (45.21%).