Speech Synthesis in the “Mother Tongue”: Designing, Training, and Evaluating a Text-to-Speech System for Yiddish

In: Journal of Jewish Languages
Isaac L. Bleaman Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA USA

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Jacob J. Webber Doctoral Student, Centre for Speech Technology Research, University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK

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Samuel K. Lo Data Linguist, Speech Graphics Edinburgh UK

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Although few linguistic corpora are available in Yiddish, there are numerous sources of so-called “found data” that can be adapted for language research, pedagogy, and resource development. We describe the steps taken to create the first speech synthesis (text-to-speech) program in Yiddish. A state-of-the-art TTS model, FastSpeech 2, was trained on a hand-corrected data set consisting of literary texts paired with audio narrations by native speakers of the Polish and Lithuanian dialects. A quantitative evaluation by listeners found that the system produced speech that was both intelligible and natural-sounding. To demonstrate the system’s applications for language pedagogy, we offer a qualitative evaluation of Yiddish phonological features that are present or absent in a sample of synthesized recordings. We hope that the success of speech synthesis in Yiddish will inspire future projects to enable technological support for other minority languages in which transcribed recordings are available.

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