Towards Building an Automatic Transcription System for Language Documentation: Experiences from Muyu

Alexander Zahrer, Andrej Žgank , Barbara Schuppler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Since at least half of the world’s 6000 plus languages will vanish during the 21st century, language documentation has become a rapidly growing field in linguistics. A fundamental challenge for language documentation is the ”transcription bottleneck”. Speech technology may deliver the decisive breakthrough for overcoming the transcription bottleneck. This paper presents first experiments from the development of ASR4LD, a new automatic speech recognition (ASR) based tool for language documentation (LD). The experiments are based on recordings from an ongoing documentation project for the endangered Muyu language in New Guinea. We compare phoneme recognition experiments with American English, Austrian German and Slovenian as source language and Muyu as target language. The Slovenian acoustic models achieve the by far best performance (43.71% PER) in comparison to 57.14% PER with American English, and 89.49% PER with Austrian German. Whereas part of the errors can be explained by phonetic variation, the recording mismatch poses a major problem. On the long term, ASR4LD will not only be an integral part of the ongoing documentation project of Muyu, but will be further developed in order to facilitate also the language documentation process of other language groups
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLREC 2020 - 12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, Conference Proceedings
EditorsNicoletta Calzolari, Frederic Bechet, Philippe Blache, Khalid Choukri, Christopher Cieri, Thierry Declerck, Sara Goggi, Hitoshi Isahara, Bente Maegaard, Joseph Mariani, Helene Mazo, Asuncion Moreno, Jan Odijk, Stelios Piperidis
PublisherEuropean Language Resources Association
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)979-10-95546-34-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
EventLREC 2020: 12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation - Virtuell, France
Duration: 11 May 202016 May 2020


ConferenceLREC 2020


  • American English
  • Austrian German
  • Language documentation
  • Muyu
  • Phone recognition
  • Slovenian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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