Measuring Gradient Effects of Alcohol on Speech with Neural Networks' Posterior Probability of Phonological Features


Alcohol is known to impair fine articulatory control and movements. In drunken speech, incomplete closure of the vocal tract can result in deaffrication of the English affricate sounds /tʃ/ and /ʤ/, spirantization (fricative-like production) of the stop consonants and palatalization (retraction of place of articulation) of the alveolar fricative /s/ (produced as /ʃ/). Such categorical segmental errors have been well-reported. This study employs a phonologically-informed neural network approach to estimate degrees of deaffrication of /tʃ/ and /ʤ/, spirantization of /t/ and /d/ and place retraction for /s/ in a corpus of intoxicated English speech. Recurrent neural networks were trained to recognize relevant phonological features [anterior], [continuant] and [strident] in a control speech corpus. Their posterior probabilities were computed over the segments produced under intoxication. The results obtained revealed both categorical and gradient errors and, thus, suggested that this new approach could reliably quantify fine-grained errors in intoxicated speech.

Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic 2023