Category Archives: Theoretical

These posts are dedicated individual and joint theoretical research

Building a cleaned dataset of aligned ultrasound, articulometry, and audio.

In 2013, I recorded 11 North American English speakers, each reading eight phrases with two flaps in two syllables (e.g “We have editor books”), and at 5 speech rates, from about 3 syllables/second to 7 syllables/second. Each recording included audio, ultrasound imaging of the tongue, and articulometry.

The dataset has taken a truly inordinate amount of time to label, transcribe (thank you Romain Fiasson), rotate, align ultrasound to audio, fit in shared time (what is known as a Procrustean fit), extract acoustic correlates, and clean from tokens that have recording or unfixable alignment errors.

It is, however, now 2019 and I have a cleaned dataset. I’ve uploaded the dataset, with data at each point of processing included, to an Open Science Framework website: I will, over the next few weeks, upload documentation on how I processed the data, as well as videos of the cleaned data showing ultrasound and EMA motion.

By September 1st, I plan on submitting a research article discussing the techniques used to build the dataset, as well as theoretically motivated subset of the articulatory to acoustic correlates within this dataset to a special issue of a journal whose name I will disclose should they accept the article for publication.

This research was funded by a Marsden Grant from New Zealand, “Saving energy vs. making yourself understood during speech production”. Thanks to Mark Tiede for writing the quaternion rotation tools needed to oriented EMA traces, and to Christian Kroos for teaching our group at Western Sydney Universiy how to implement them. Thanks to Michael Proctor for building filtering and sample repair tools for EMA traces. Thanks also to Wei-rong Chen for writing the palate estimation tool needed to replace erroneous palate traces. Special thanks to Scott Lloyd for his part in developing and building the ultrasound transducer holder prototype used in this research. Dedicated to the memory of Roman Fiasson, who completed most of the labelling and transcription for this project.

Visual-tactile Speech Perception and the Autism Quotient

Katie Bicevskis, Bryan Gick, and I recently published “Visual-tactile Speech Perception and the Autism Quotient” in Frontiers in Communication: Language Sciences. In this article, we demonstrated that the more people self-describe as having autistic-spectrum traits, the more they tolerate a separation of time between air-flow hitting the skin and lip opening from a video of someone saying an ambiguous “ba” or “pa” when identifying the syllable they saw and felt, but did not hear.

First, in an earlier publication, we showed that visual-tactile speech integration depended on this alignment of lip opening and airflow, and that this is evidence of modality-neutral speech primitives. We use whatever information we have during speech perception regardless of whether we see, feel, or hear it.

Summary results from Bicevskis et al. (2016), as seen in Derrick et al. (2019).

This result is best illustrated with the image above. The image shows a kind of topographical map, where white represents the “mountaintop” of people saying the ambiguous audio-tactile syllable is a “pa”, and green represents the “valley” of people saying the ambiguous audio-tactile syllable is a “ba”. On the X-axis is the alignment of the onset of air-flow release and lip opening. On the Y-axis is the participants’ Autism-spectrum Quotient. Lower numbers represent people who describe themselves as having the least autistic-like traits; the most neurotypical. At the bottom of the scale, perceivers identify the ambiguous syllables as “pa” with as much as 70-75% likelihood when the air-flow arrived 100-150 milliseconds after lip opening – about when it would arrive if a speaker stood 30-45 cm away from the perceiver. Deviations led to steep dropoffs, where perceivers would identify the syllable as “pa” only 20-30% of the time if the air flow arrived 300 milliseconds before the lip opening. In contrast, at the top of the AQ scale, perceivers reported perceiving “pa” as little as only 5% more often when audio-tactile alignment was closer to that experienced in typical speech.

Interaction between audio-tactile alignment and Autism-spectrum Quotient.
Interaction between audio-tactile alignment and Autism-spectrum Quotient.

These results are very similar what happens with people who are on the autism spectrum with audio-visual speech. Autists listen to speech with their ears more than they look with their eyes, showing a weak multisensory coherence during perceptual tasks (Happé and Frith, 2006). Our results suggest such weak coherence extends into the neutoryipcal population, and can be measured in tasks where the sensory modalities are well-balanced (which is easier to do in speech when audio is removed.)

References:

Bicevskis, K., Derrick, D., and Gick, B. (2016). Visual-tactile integration in speech perception: Evidence for modality neutral speech primitives. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140(5):3531–3539

Derrick, D., Bicevskis, K., and Gick, B. (2019). Visual-tactile speech perception and the autism quotient. Frontiers in Communication – Language Sciences, 3(61):1–11

Derrick, D., Anderson, P., Gick, B., and Green, S. (2009). Characteristics of air puffs produced in English ‘pa’: Experiments and simulations. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125(4):2272–2281

Happé, F., and Frith, U. (2006). The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1):5-25

Preliminary Report: Visual-tactile Speech Perception and the Autism Quotient

Katie Bicevskis, Bryan Gick, and I just had “Visual-tactile Speech Perception and the Autism Quotient” – our reexamination and expansion our evidence for ecologically valid visual-tactile speech perception – accepted to Frontiers in Communications: Language Sciences.  Right now only the abstract and introductory parts are online, but the whole article will be up soon.  The major contribution of this article is  that speech perceivers integrate air flow information during visual speech perception with greater reliance upon event-related accuracy the more they self-describe as neurotypical.  This behaviour supports the Happé & Frith (2006) weak coherence account of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Put very simply, neurotypical people perceive whole events, but people with ASD perceive uni-sensory parts of events, often with greater detail than their neurotypical counterparts.  This account partially explains how autists can have deficiencies in imagination and social skills, but also be extremely capable in other areas of inquiry.  Previous models of ASD offered an explanation of disability, Happé and Frith offer an explanation of different ability.

I will be expanding on this discussion, with a plain English explanation of the results, once the article is fully published.  For now, the article abstract is re-posted here:

“Multisensory information is integrated asymmetrically in speech perception: An audio signal can follow video by 240 milliseconds, but can precede video by only 60 ms, without disrupting the sense of synchronicity (Munhall et al., 1996). Similarly, air flow can follow either audio (Gick et al., 2010) or video (Bicevskis et al., 2016) by a much larger margin than it can precede either while remaining perceptually synchronous. These asymmetric windows of integration have been attributed to the physical properties of the signals; light travels faster than sound (Munhall et al., 1996), and sound travels faster than air flow (Gick et al., 2010). Perceptual windows of integration narrow during development (Hillock-Dunn and Wallace, 2012), but remain wider among people with autism (Wallace and Stevenson, 2014). Here we show that, even among neurotypical adult perceivers, visual-tactile windows of integration are wider and flatter the higher the participant’s Autism Quotient (AQ) (Baron-Cohen et al, 2001), a self-report screening test for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As ‘pa’ is produced with a tiny burst of aspiration (Derrick et al., 2009), we applied light and inaudible air puffs to participants’ necks while they watched silent videos of a person saying ‘ba’ or ‘pa’, with puffs presented both synchronously and at varying degrees of asynchrony relative to the recorded plosive release burst, which itself is time-aligned to visible lip opening. All syllables seen along with cutaneous air puffs were more likely to be perceived as ‘pa’. Syllables were perceived as ‘pa’ most often when the air puff occurred 50-100 ms after lip opening, with decaying probability as asynchrony increased. Integration was less dependent on time-alignment the higher the participant’s AQ. Perceivers integrate event-relevant tactile information in visual speech perception with greater reliance upon event-related accuracy the more they self-describe as neurotypical, supporting the Happé & Frith (2006) weak coherence account of ASD.”

The articulation of /ɹ/ in New Zealand English

Matthias Heyne, Xuan Wang, myself (Donald Derrick), Kieran Dorreen, and Kevin Watson have recently had an article documenting the articulation of  /ɹ/ in New Zealand English.

This work is therefore in part a follow-up to some of my co-authored research into biomechanical modelling of English  /ɹ/ variants, indicating that vocalic context influences variation through muscle stress, strain, and displacement.  It is, by these three measures, “easier” to move from an /i/ to a tip-down /ɹ/ , but from /a/ to a tip-up /ɹ/.

In this study, for speakers who vary at all (some only do tip-up or tip-down), they are most likely to produce tip-up /ɹ/ in these conditions:

back vowel > low central vowel > high front vowel

initial /ɹ/ > intervocalic /ɹ/ > following a coronal (“dr”) > following a velar (“cr”)

The results show that allophonic variation of NZE /ɹ/ is similar to that in American English, indicating that the variation is caused by similar constraints.  The results support theories of locally optimized modular speech motor control, and a mechanical model of rhotic variation.

The abstract is repeated below, with links to articles contained within:

This paper investigates the articulation of approximant /ɹ/ in New Zealand English (NZE), and tests whether the patterns documented for rhotic varieties of English hold in a non- rhotic dialect. Midsagittal ultrasound data for 62 speakers producing 13 tokens of /ɹ/ in various phonetic environments were categorized according to the taxonomy by Delattre & Freeman (1968), and semi-automatically traced and quantified using the AAA software (Articulate Instruments Ltd. 2012) and a Modified Curvature Index (MCI; Dawson, Tiede & Whalen 2016). Twenty-five NZE speakers produced tip-down /ɹ/ exclusively, 12 tip-up /ɹ/ exclusively, and 25 produced both, partially depending on context. Those speakers who produced both variants used the most tip-down /ɹ/ in front vowel contexts, the most tip- up /ɹ/ in back vowel contexts, and varying rates in low central vowel contexts. The NZE speakers produced tip-up /ɹ/ most often in word-initial position, followed by intervocalic, then coronal, and least often in velar contexts. The results indicate that the allophonic variation patterns of /ɹ/ in NZE are similar to those of American English (Mielke, Baker & Archangeli 2010, 2016). We show that MCI values can be used to facilitate /ɹ/ gesture classification; linear mixed-effects models fit on the MCI values of manually categorized tongue contours show significant differences between all but two of Delattre & Freeman’s (1968) tongue types. Overall, the results support theories of modular speech motor control with articulation strategies evolving from local rather than global optimization processes, and a mechanical model of rhotic variation (see Stavness et al. 2012).

Ultrasound/EMA guide

This is a guide to the use of ultrasound and EMA in combination.  It is a bit out of date, and probably needs a day or two of work to make fully correct, but it describes the techniques I use with 3 researchers.  Of course I wrote this years ago, and now I can run an Ultrasound/EMA experiment by myself if I need to.