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Automated Intelligibility Assessment of Pathological Speech Using Phonological Features


It is commonly acknowledged that word or phoneme intelligibility is an important criterion in the assessment of the communication efficiency of a pathological speaker. People have therefore put a lot of effort in the design of perceptual intelligibility rating tests. These tests usually have the drawback that they employ unnatural speech material (e.g., nonsense words) and that they cannot fully exclude errors due to listener bias. Therefore, there is a growing interest in the application of objective automatic speech recognition technology to automate the intelligibility assessment. Current research is headed towards the design of automated methods which can be shown to produce ratings that correspond well with those emerging from a well-designed and well-performed perceptual test. In this paper, a novel methodology that is built on previous work (Middag et al., 2008) is presented. It utilizes phonological features, automatic speech alignment based on acoustic models that were trained on normal speech, context-dependent speaker feature extraction, and intelligibility prediction based on a small model that can be trained on pathological speech samples. The experimental evaluation of the new system reveals that the root mean squared error of the discrepancies between perceived and computed intelligibilities can be as low as 8 on a scale of 0 to 100.

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Correspondence to Catherine Middag.

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Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Middag, C., Martens, JP., Van Nuffelen, G. et al. Automated Intelligibility Assessment of Pathological Speech Using Phonological Features. EURASIP J. Adv. Signal Process. 2009, 629030 (2009).

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