Comparing Languages Using Hierarchical Prosodic Analysis

Juraj Šimko, Antti Suni, Katri Hiovain, Martti Vainio


We present a novel, data-driven approach to assessing mutual similarities and differences among a group of languages, based on purely prosodic characteristics, namely f0 and energy envelope signals. These signals are decomposed using continuous wavelet transform; the components represent f0 and energy patterns on three levels of prosodic hierarchy roughly corresponding to syllables, words and phrases. Unigram language models with states derived from a combination of Δ-features obtained from these components are trained and compared using a mutual perplexity measure. In this pilot study we apply this approach to a small corpus of spoken material from seven languages (Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, German, Swedish, Russian and Slovak) with a rich history of mutual language contacts. We present similarity trees (dendrograms) derived from the models using the hierarchically decomposed prosodic signals separately as well as combined, and compare them with patterns obtained from non-decomposed signals. We show that (1) plausible similarity patterns, reflecting language family relationships and the known contact history can be obtained even from a relatively small data set, and (2) the hierarchical decomposition approach using both f0 and energy provides the most comprehensive results.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1044

Cite as: Šimko, J., Suni, A., Hiovain, K., Vainio, M. (2017) Comparing Languages Using Hierarchical Prosodic Analysis. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 1213-1217, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1044.


@inproceedings{Šimko2017,
  author={Juraj Šimko and Antti Suni and Katri Hiovain and Martti Vainio},
  title={Comparing Languages Using Hierarchical Prosodic Analysis},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={1213--1217},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1044},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1044}
}