Schwa Realization in French: Using Automatic Speech Processing to Study Phonological and Socio-Linguistic Factors in Large Corpora

Yaru Wu, Martine Adda-Decker, Cécile Fougeron, Lori Lamel


The study investigates different factors influencing schwa realization in French: phonological factors, speech style, gender, and socio-professional status. Three large corpora, two of public journalistic speech (ESTER and ETAPE) and one of casual speech (NCCFr) are used. The absence/presence of schwa is automatically decided via forced alignment, which has a successful performance rate of 95%. Only polysyllabic words including a potential schwa in the word-initial syllable are studied in order to control for variability in word structure and position. The effect of the left context, grouped into classes of a word final vowel or final consonant or a pause, is studied. Words preceded by a vowel (V#) tend to favor schwa deletion. Interestingly, words preceded by a consonant or a pause have similar behaviors: speakers tend to maintain schwa in both contexts. As can be expected, the more casual the speech, the more frequently schwa is dropped. Males tend to delete more schwas than females, and journalists are more likely to delete schwa than politicians. These results suggest that beyond phonology, other factors such as gender, style and socio-professional status influence the realization of schwa.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-470

Cite as: Wu, Y., Adda-Decker, M., Fougeron, C., Lamel, L. (2017) Schwa Realization in French: Using Automatic Speech Processing to Study Phonological and Socio-Linguistic Factors in Large Corpora. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 3782-3786, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-470.


@inproceedings{Wu2017,
  author={Yaru Wu and Martine Adda-Decker and Cécile Fougeron and Lori Lamel},
  title={Schwa Realization in French: Using Automatic Speech Processing to Study Phonological and Socio-Linguistic Factors in Large Corpora},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={3782--3786},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-470},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-470}
}