Higher-level features are considered to be a potential remedy against transmission line and cross-channel degradations, currently some of the biggest problems associated with speaker verification. Phoneme durations in particular are not altered by these factors; thus a robust duration model will be a particularly useful addition to traditional cepstral based speaker verification systems. In this dissertation we investigate the feasibility of phoneme durations as a feature for speaker verification. Simple speaker specific triphone duration models are created to statistically represent the phoneme durations. Durations are obtained from an automatic hidden Markov model (HMM) based automatic speech recognition system and are modeled using single mixture Gaussian distributions. These models are applied in a speaker verification system (trained and tested on the YOHO corpus) and found to be a useful feature, even when used in isolation. When fused with acoustic features, verification performance increases significantly. A novel speech rate normalization technique is developed in order to remove some of the inherent intra-speaker variability (due to differing speech rates). Speech rate variability has a negative impact on both speaker verification and automatic speech recognition. Although the duration modelling seems to benefit only slightly from this procedure, the fused system performance improvement is substantial. Other factors known to influence the duration of phonemes are incorporated into the duration model. Utterance final lengthening is known be a consistent effect and thus “position in sentence” is modeled. “Position in word” is also modeled since triphones do not provide enough contextual information. This is found to improve performance since some vowels’ duration are particularly sensitive to its position in the word. Data scarcity becomes a problem when building speaker specific duration models. By using information from available data, unknown durations can be predicted in an attempt to overcome the data scarcity problem. To this end we develop a novel approach to predict unknown phoneme durations from the values of known phoneme durations for a particular speaker, based on the maximum likelihood criterion. This model is based on the observation that phonemes from the same broad phonetic class tend to co-vary strongly, but that there is also significant cross-class correlations. This approach is tested on the TIMIT corpus and found to be more accurate than using back-off techniques.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2009.