TTS, Language Technology, Kvistur, and Samrómur papers published but no conferences to attend

Sjá íslenska þýðingu neðar

This is a positive but somewhat sad week for LVL. Many LVL members were going to go to Marseille, France this week to attend Language Resources & Evaluation Conference (LREC) 2020 and the joint Spoken Language Technologies for Under-Resourced Languages and Collaboration and Computing for Under-Resourced Languages (SLTU-CCURL) 2020 Workshop. Once there they were going to present their many papers, providing an in-depth look into our TTS, data collection, compound splitting, and general language technology research in recent months. However, due to COVID-19 these conferences were both cancelled. Luckily the organizers have still decided to publish the proceedings this month. The joint SLTU proceedings were published May 8th on the SLTU-CCURL 2020 website at Workshop Proceedings (our paper is on page 316). Head over to the SLTU 2020 website if you want to read more SLTU-CCURL papers. We’re still waiting for the LREC proceedings to be published. But our papers can now be found as pdfs below and on our publications page.

Our TTS paper was accepted at SLTU-CCURL 2020:

Title: Manual Speech Synthesis Data Acquisition – From Script Design to Recording Speech
Authors: Atli Þor Sigurgeirsson, Gunnar Thor Örnólfsson, Jon Gudnason
Summary: In this paper we present the work of collecting a large amount of high quality speech synthesis data for Icelandic. A script design strategy is proposed and three scripts have been generated to maximize diphone coverage, varying in length. The largest reading script contains 14,400 prompts and includes 81% of all Icelandic diphones at least twenty times. As of writing, 58.7 hours of high quality speech data has been collected.

Our Samrómur, Kvistur, and Language Technology programme papers were accepted at LREC 2020:

The cover of the proposal sent to the Icelandic parliament

Title: Language Technology Programme for Icelandic 2019-2023
Authors: Anna Nikulásdóttir, Jón Guðnason, Anton Karl Ingason, Hrafn Loftsson, Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Einar Freyr Sigurðsson and Steinþór Steingrímsson
Summary: In this paper, we describe a national language technology programme for Icelandic. The programme aims at making Icelandic usable in communication and interactions in the digital world, by developing accessible, opensource language resources and software. The research and development work within the programme is carried out by SÍM, a consortium of universities, institutions, and private companies, with a strong emphasis on cooperation between academia and industries. Five core projects will be the main content of the programme: language resources, speech recognition, speech synthesis, machine translation, and
spell and grammar checking.

A representation of the model with one BiLSTM layer, showing where the compound word raforku ‘electric energy’ is split in two.

Title: Kvistur: a BiLSTM Compound Splitter for Icelandic
Authors: Jón Daðason, David Mollberg and Hrafn Loftsson
Summary: In this paper, we present a character-based BiLSTM model for splitting Icelandic compound words, and show how quantity of training data affects model performance. Compounding is highly productive in Icelandic, and new compounds are constantly being created. This results in a large number of out-of-vocabulary (OOV) words, negatively impacting the performance of many NLP tools. Our model is trained on a dataset of 2.9 million unique word forms and their constituent structures from the Database of Icelandic Morphology. The model learns to split compound words into two and can be used to derive a word form’s constituent structure. Knowing the constituent structure of a word form makes it possible to generate the optimal split for a given task. The model outperforms other previously published methods when evaluated on a corpus of manually split word forms. This method has been integrated into Kvistur, an Icelandic compound word analyzer.

The cumulative count of votes and utterances. Each utterance can have more than one vote as it needs two positive votes to be considered valid and two negative votes to be considered invalid.

Title: Samrómur: Crowd-sourcing Data Collection for Icelandic Speech Recognition
Authors: David Erik Mollberg, Ólafur Helgi Jónsson, Sunneva Þorsteinsdóttir, Steinþór Steingrímsson, Eydís Huld Magnúsdóttir and Jon Gudnason
Summary: This contribution describes an ongoing speech data collection, using Samrómur which is built upon Mozilla’s Common Voice. The goal is to build a large-scale speech corpus for Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) for Icelandic. Upon completion, Samrómur will be the largest open speech corpus for Icelandic. The paper discusses the methods used for crowd-sourcing and illustrate the importance of marketing and good media coverage for a crowd-sourced dataset. Preliminary results exceed our
expectations. The paper also reports on the process of validating recordings.

Our SÍM colleagues also had two papers at LREC 2020: “Facilitating Corpus Usage: Making Icelandic Corpora More Accessible for Researchers and Language Users” and “Parallel Universal Dependencies”. Congratulations!

While it is sad that our LVL members cannot meet with fellow researchers and visit the great city of Marseille, they still look forward to connecting with researchers online through your comments on their papers and links to your related papers.

Þessa vikuna hefði átt að halda Language Resources & Evaluation (LREC) ráðstefnuna í Frakklandi, sem og Spoken Language Technologies for Under-resourced Languages vinnustofuna en báðum þessum viðburðum var aflýst vegna COVID-19.  Margir starfsmenn LVL ætluðu sér að sækja þessa viðburði og kynna þar 4 greinar og veita innsýn í þær máltæknirannsóknir sem hafa farið fram hérna síðustu mánuði. Hérna má lesa nánar um þetta og nálgast greinarnar. (Athugið að greinarnar eru aðeins aðgengilegar á ensku).

First milestone in the Language Technology for Icelandic project

The LVL team celebrating the first milestone in the Language Technology for Icelandic project. Ólafur Helgi Jónsson, Sunneva Þorsteinsdóttir and Steinþór Steingrímsson are missing from the picture.

Last week we celebrated achieving the first milestone in the Language Technology for Icelandic project with a cake!

After a lot of hard work the past few months we achieved the first milestone in Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Text-to-Speech (TTS) and Machine Translation (MT).

In ASR, the focus has mostly been on data creating and gathering. 55,000 utterances have been collected (donated by adults) via the crowd-sourcing platform (based on Common Voice) with plans to reach 100.000 utterances for the next milestone. The process is being extended to include younger voices in collaboration with schools and authorities. Today we started working with Öldutúnsskóli in Hafnarfjörður. The goal is to reach 80.000 young voice utterances for the next mileston. Additionally, data has been gathered from RÚV (audio, video and subtitles) and CreditInfo (transcriptions). Along with data gathering, the team is also developing tools to post-process Icelandic ASR text for better readability.

In TTS, we successfully created a voice recording client (LOBE) and three reading scripts in order to collect high quality speech and corresponding text data. The reading scripts were created from Risamálheild and seek to maximize diphone coverage. So far 20 hours have been collected from two speakers, male and female. The aim is to finish collecting 20 hours from each speaker early this year. From the collected data two TTS prototypes have been created in Ossian, which extends the Merlin back-end. The current prototypes are quite naive but we have integrated a grapheme-to-phoneme model for the Icelandic language into the prototypes.

In MT, we successfully created a phrase-based statistical machine translation system using the open source tool Moses. Our collaborators at Miðeind created neural machine translation systems based on BiLSTMs and Transformers. The models were trained on the newly available English-Icelandic parallel corpus, ParIce. The systems were then evaluated w.r.t. training time, throughput and BLEU score. The code and 
systems are freely available but are still under development for milestone two. In milestone two we will continue to develop the systems further and adjust them to specific needs of the Icelandic language.

Language Technology Seminar this Saturday

The cooperation between LVL and other leading icelandic organizations is increasing. Tomorrow Reykjavik University and  Societas Scientiarum Islandica (Vísindafélag Íslendinga) are holding a seminar and panel discussion on the current progress and the future of implementing language technologies for Icelandic.

It will be held at Reykjavik University room M105. Hrafn Loftsson, of LVL, will be moderating the seminar starting at 13:30. It will consist of talks from a professor at University of Iceland, the chairman of Almannaromur, Jón Guðnason of LVL, and the director of Miðeindar ehf. Afterwards is the panel discussion.

We welcome everyone to attend the lively Saturday afternoon discussion!

Researchers’ Night

This Friday is Researchers’ Night (Vísindavaka Rannís 2018). It is an all ages event on the 28th of September, 2018 from 16:30 – 22:00 at Laugardalshöllin, Reykjavik.

We will be there with Reykjavik University demonstrating the possibilities of speech with tech: evaluating collected speech data (Eyra), testing the accuracy of an automatic speech recognizer(ASR) –, listening to a text-to-speech synthesizer, and telling your phone to read the news to you. Come try out the state-of-the-art in Icelandic speech technology, and tell us what you think!

Researcher by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator10

Student Projects Available

For the students of Reykjavik University or summer exchange students, we now have a list of student projects available. They are on or available from the Menu of the LVL website as Student Projects. They range from straight forward to difficult and are suitable for undergraduate final projects, Masters students, and PhD students. If you want to work on a one, please contact the people listed in the contact column, and they can give you more details to get you started. We look forward to hearing from you!


Using language technology to assist the hard of hearing

The Nordic association of the hard of hearing (Nordiska Hörselskadades Samarbetskommitté, NHS) had a seminar at Hotel Selfoss last week. On Friday, Anna gave a talk there on how language technology might assist people hard of hearing to communicate and access information in a predominately hearing world. Automatic transcription of live communication and automatic caption of video material is already working for English and some other languages, and the Nordic participants of the seminar were eager to see this technology advance in their languages. At LVL, we are working on open ASR systems, making the development of technology like this possible for Icelandic.

The rest of the slides can be viewed by selecting the first slide below.


Meeting with Mycroft

This week LVL sat down with Mycroft to discuss the possibilities of collaborating and working together to bring more speech technology to Iceland.  We discussed using Mozilla’s Common Voice to bring about another open source Icelandic speech dataset, and possibly an Icelandic voice assistant. The Mozilla project requires just 5,000 phrases which anyone can contribute, even you!

LVL meets with Joshua Montgomerey of Mycroft