Haskins Labs Wins $2.9 Million Grant to Study Mechanics of Speaking and Listening
Haskins Laboratories, a Yale-affiliated institution for speech research, has received a $2.9 million grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to study the links between production and perception in speech.
Haskins researcher Douglas H. Whalen is the principal investigator for the five-year grant. The goal of the research is to delineate the gestures of the human vocal tract that are effective in conveying a linguistic message to listeners.
The research involves measuring how people produce speech and then studying those movements to determine what listeners hear. Movements of a speaker’s mouth are measured with a magnetometer, using three magnets arranged around the head to locate miniature receivers on the speaker’s lips, tongue and jaw. The speaker’s vocal tract movements are then used as input to a speech synthesizer that is based on articulation rather than acoustic signal. Instead of changing bits of sound to explore the limits of perception, as speech scientists have done before, the new approach will change speech movements. This will give a clearer picture of what speakers do when speaking and what listeners hear.
“These results will give us a much better idea of how speech is controlled,” said Whalen. “We know surprisingly little about the important aspects of the speech signal, the ones that listeners really pay attention to. The work on this grant will allow us to explore new possibilities for more robust recognition of speech by machines, and new ways of looking at the interaction of hearing deficits and speech difficulties.”
Haskins Laboratories, founded in 1935, is a private, non-profit research group affiliated with Yale and the University of Connecticut. Research topics include all facets of speech production and perception, reading, and the neural processes underlying these capabilities.