Rodd, J., Bosker, H. R., Ernestus, M., Meyer, A. S., & Bosch, L. t.
(2019). The speech production system is reconfigured to change speaking rate. Poster presented at Crossing the Boundaries: Language in Interaction Symposium, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
It is evident that speakers can freely vary stylistic features of their speech, such as speech rate, but how they accomplish this has hardly been studied, let alone implemented in a formal model of speech production. Much as in walking and running, where qualitatively different gaits are required cover the gamut of different speeds, we might predict there to be multiple qualitatively distinct configurations, or ‘gaits’, in the speech planning system that speakers must switch between to alter their speaking rate or style. Alternatively, control might involve continuous modulation of a single ‘gait’. We investigate these possibilities by simulation of a connectionist computational model which mimics the temporal characteristics of observed speech. Different ‘regimes’ (combinations of parameter settings) can be engaged to achieve different speaking rates.
The model was trained separately for each speaking rate, by an evolutionary optimisation algorithm. The training identified parameter values that resulted in the model to best approximate syllable duration distributions characteristic of each speaking rate.
In one gait system, the regimes used to achieve fast and slow speech are qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different. In parameter space, they would be arranged along a straight line. Different points along this axis correspond to different speaking rates. In a multiple gait system, this linearity would be missing. Instead, the arrangement of the regimes would be triangular, with no obvious relationship between the regions associated with each gait, and an abrupt shift in parameter values to move from speeds associated with ‘walk-speaking’ to ‘run-speaking’.
Our model achieved good fits in all three speaking rates. In parameter space, the arrangement of the parameter settings selected for the different speaking rates is non-axial, suggesting that ‘gaits’ are present in the speech planning system.