CogSci Colloquium: "Sociolinguistic Challenges for Emerging Speech Technology"

Thursday, September 21, 2023
3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
2124 HJ Patterson Building

SpeakerNicole Holiday (Pomona College)

Title: "Sociolinguistic Challenges for Emerging Speech Technology"

AbstactAs speech technology becomes an increasingly integral part of the everyday lives of humans around the world, issues related to language variation and change and algorithmic inequality will come to the forefront for citizens and researchers alike. Indeed, over the past few years, researchers across disciplines such as computer science, communications, and linguistics have begun to approach these concerns from a variety of scholarly perspectives. For sociolinguists who are primarily interested in how social factors influence language use and vice versa, the fact that humans and machines are regularly speaking with one another presents an entirely new area of research interest with major impacts for linguistics and the public. In this talk, I will present the results of recent and ongoing research related to how humans perceive the social qualities of synthesized voices (such as Siri), and how such perceptions may reinforce and reproduce stereotypical perceptions of human voices.  I will also present research on how Automatic Speech Recognition systems designed to provide feedback (such as the Amazon Halo) demonstrate systematic bias against non-normative speakers, focusing on issues of racialized and gendered variation in voice quality. Finally, I will discuss large-scale challenges related to speech and algorithmic bias, as well as the pitfalls that language researchers need to be aware of when designing and evaluating new TTS and ASR systems.

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