In this paper, we propose a Guided Attention (GA) auxiliary training loss, which improves the effectiveness and robustness of automatic speech recognition (ASR) contextual biasing without introducing additional parameters. A common challenge in previous literature is that the word error rate (WER) reduction brought by contextual biasing diminishes as the number of bias phrases increases. To address this challenge, we employ a GA loss as an additional training objective besides the Transducer loss. The proposed GA loss aims to teach the cross attention how to align bias phrases with text tokens or audio frames. Compared to studies with similar motivations, the proposed loss operates directly on the cross attention weights and is easier to implement. Through extensive experiments based on Conformer Transducer with Contextual Adapter, we demonstrate that the proposed method not only leads to a lower WER but also retains its effectiveness as the number of bias phrases increases. Specifically, the GA loss decreases the WER of rare vocabularies by up to 19.2% on LibriSpeech compared to the contextual biasing baseline, and up to 49.3% compared to a vanilla Transducer.
When performing tasks like automatic speech recognition or spoken language understanding for a given utterance, access to preceding text or audio provides contextual information can improve performance. Considering the recent advances in generative large language models (LLM), we hypothesize that an LLM could generate useful context information using the preceding text. With appropriate prompts, LLM could generate a prediction of the next sentence or abstractive text like titles or topics. In this paper, we study the use of LLM-generated context information and propose an approach to distill the generated information during fine-tuning of self-supervised speech models, which we refer to as generative context-aware fine-tuning. This approach allows the fine-tuned model to make improved predictions without access to the true surrounding segments or to the LLM at inference time, while requiring only a very small additional context module. We evaluate the proposed approach using the SLUE and Libri-light benchmarks for several downstream tasks: automatic speech recognition, named entity recognition, and sentiment analysis. The results show that generative context-aware fine-tuning outperforms a context injection fine-tuning approach that accesses the ground-truth previous text, and is competitive with a generative context injection fine-tuning approach that requires the LLM at inference time.
Conformer, a convolution-augmented Transformer variant, has become the de facto encoder architecture for speech processing due to its superior performance in various tasks, including automatic speech recognition (ASR), speech translation (ST) and spoken language understanding (SLU). Recently, a new encoder called E-Branchformer has outperformed Conformer in the LibriSpeech ASR benchmark, making it promising for more general speech applications. This work compares E-Branchformer and Conformer through extensive experiments using different types of end-to-end sequence-to-sequence models. Results demonstrate that E-Branchformer achieves comparable or better performance than Conformer in almost all evaluation sets across 15 ASR, 2 ST, and 3 SLU benchmarks, while being more stable during training. We will release our training configurations and pre-trained models for reproducibility, which can benefit the speech community.
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.
Spoken language understanding (SLU) tasks involve mapping from speech audio signals to semantic labels. Given the complexity of such tasks, good performance might be expected to require large labeled datasets, which are difficult to collect for each new task and domain. However, recent advances in self-supervised speech representations have made it feasible to consider learning SLU models with limited labeled data. In this work we focus on low-resource spoken named entity recognition (NER) and address the question: Beyond self-supervised pre-training, how can we use external speech and/or text data that are not annotated for the task? We draw on a variety of approaches, including self-training, knowledge distillation, and transfer learning, and consider their applicability to both end-to-end models and pipeline (speech recognition followed by text NER model) approaches. We find that several of these approaches improve performance in resource-constrained settings beyond the benefits from pre-trained representations alone. Compared to prior work, we find improved F1 scores of up to 16%. While the best baseline model is a pipeline approach, the best performance when using external data is ultimately achieved by an end-to-end model. We provide detailed comparisons and analyses, showing for example that end-to-end models are able to focus on the more NER-specific words.
Progress in speech processing has been facilitated by shared datasets and benchmarks. Historically these have focused on automatic speech recognition (ASR), speaker identification, or other lower-level tasks. Interest has been growing in higher-level spoken language understanding tasks, including using end-to-end models, but there are fewer annotated datasets for such tasks. At the same time, recent work shows the possibility of pre-training generic representations and then fine-tuning for several tasks using relatively little labeled data. We propose to create a suite of benchmark tasks for Spoken Language Understanding Evaluation (SLUE) consisting of limited-size labeled training sets and corresponding evaluation sets. This resource would allow the research community to track progress, evaluate pre-trained representations for higher-level tasks, and study open questions such as the utility of pipeline versus end-to-end approaches. We present the first phase of the SLUE benchmark suite, consisting of named entity recognition, sentiment analysis, and ASR on the corresponding datasets. We focus on naturally produced (not read or synthesized) speech, and freely available datasets. We provide new transcriptions and annotations on subsets of the VoxCeleb and VoxPopuli datasets, evaluation metrics and results for baseline models, and an open-source toolkit to reproduce the baselines and evaluate new models.
In this paper, we explore the use of pre-trained language models to learn sentiment information of written texts for speech sentiment analysis. First, we investigate how useful a pre-trained language model would be in a 2-step pipeline approach employing Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and transcripts-based sentiment analysis separately. Second, we propose a pseudo label-based semi-supervised training strategy using a language model on an end-to-end speech sentiment approach to take advantage of a large, but unlabeled speech dataset for training. Although spoken and written texts have different linguistic characteristics, they can complement each other in understanding sentiment. Therefore, the proposed system can not only model acoustic characteristics to bear sentiment-specific information in speech signals, but learn latent information to carry sentiments in the text representation. In these experiments, we demonstrate the proposed approaches improve F1 scores consistently compared to systems without a language model. Moreover, we also show that the proposed framework can reduce 65% of human supervision by leveraging a large amount of data without human sentiment annotation and boost performance in a low-resource condition where the human sentiment annotation is not available enough.
There are a number of studies about extraction of bottleneck (BN) features from deep neural networks (DNNs)trained to discriminate speakers, pass-phrases and triphone states for improving the performance of text-dependent speaker verification (TD-SV). However, a moderate success has been achieved. A recent study  presented a time contrastive learning (TCL) concept to explore the non-stationarity of brain signals for classification of brain states. Speech signals have similar non-stationarity property, and TCL further has the advantage of having no need for labeled data. We therefore present a TCL based BN feature extraction method. The method uniformly partitions each speech utterance in a training dataset into a predefined number of multi-frame segments. Each segment in an utterance corresponds to one class, and class labels are shared across utterances. DNNs are then trained to discriminate all speech frames among the classes to exploit the temporal structure of speech. In addition, we propose a segment-based unsupervised clustering algorithm to re-assign class labels to the segments. TD-SV experiments were conducted on the RedDots challenge database. The TCL-DNNs were trained using speech data of fixed pass-phrases that were excluded from the TD-SV evaluation set, so the learned features can be considered phrase-independent. We compare the performance of the proposed TCL bottleneck (BN) feature with those of short-time cepstral features and BN features extracted from DNNs discriminating speakers, pass-phrases, speaker+pass-phrase, as well as monophones whose labels and boundaries are generated by three different automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems. Experimental results show that the proposed TCL-BN outperforms cepstral features and speaker+pass-phrase discriminant BN features, and its performance is on par with those of ASR derived BN features. Moreover,....
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End-to-end deep learning language or dialect identification systems operate on the spectrogram or other acoustic feature and directly generate identification scores for each class. An important issue for end-to-end systems is to have some knowledge of the application domain, because the system can be vulnerable to use cases that were not seen in the training phase; such a scenario is often referred to as a domain mismatched condition. In general, we assume that there is enough variation in the training dataset to expose the system to multiple domains. In this work, we study how to best make use a training dataset in order to have maximum effectiveness on unknown target domains. Our goal is to process the input without any knowledge of the target domain while preserving robust performance on other domains as well. To accomplish this objective, we propose a domain attentive fusion approach for end-to-end dialect/language identification systems. To help with experimentation, we collect a dataset from three different domains, and create experimental protocols for a domain mismatched condition. The results of our proposed approach, which were tested on a variety of broadcast and YouTube data, shows significant performance gain compared to traditional approaches, even without any prior target domain information.