Isaac Feldman


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Development of Automatic Speech Recognition for the Documentation of Cook Islands Māori
Rolando Coto-Solano | Sally Akevai Nicholas | Samiha Datta | Victoria Quint | Piripi Wills | Emma Ngakuravaru Powell | Liam Koka’ua | Syed Tanveer | Isaac Feldman
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

This paper describes the process of data processing and training of an automatic speech recognition (ASR) system for Cook Islands Māori (CIM), an Indigenous language spoken by approximately 22,000 people in the South Pacific. We transcribed four hours of speech from adults and elderly speakers of the language and prepared two experiments. First, we trained three ASR systems: one statistical, Kaldi; and two based on Deep Learning, DeepSpeech and XLSR-Wav2Vec2. Wav2Vec2 tied with Kaldi for lowest character error rate (CER=6±1) and was slightly behind in word error rate (WER=23±2 versus WER=18±2 for Kaldi). This provides evidence that Deep Learning ASR systems are reaching the performance of statistical methods on small datasets, and that they can work effectively with extremely low-resource Indigenous languages like CIM. In the second experiment we used Wav2Vec2 to train models with held-out speakers. While the performance decreased (CER=15±7, WER=46±16), the system still showed considerable learning. We intend to use ASR to accelerate the documentation of CIM, using newly transcribed texts to improve the ASR and also generate teaching and language revitalization materials. The trained model is available under a license based on the Kaitiakitanga License, which provides for non-commercial use while retaining control of the model by the Indigenous community.


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Neural Machine Translation Models with Back-Translation for the Extremely Low-Resource Indigenous Language Bribri
Isaac Feldman | Rolando Coto-Solano
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

This paper presents a neural machine translation model and dataset for the Chibchan language Bribri, with an average performance of BLEU 16.9±1.7. This was trained on an extremely small dataset (5923 Bribri-Spanish pairs), providing evidence for the applicability of NMT in extremely low-resource environments. We discuss the challenges entailed in managing training input from languages without standard orthographies, we provide evidence of successful learning of Bribri grammar, and also examine the translations of structures that are infrequent in major Indo-European languages, such as positional verbs, ergative markers, numerical classifiers and complex demonstrative systems. In addition to this, we perform an experiment of augmenting the dataset through iterative back-translation (Sennrich et al., 2016a; Hoang et al., 2018) by using Spanish sentences to create synthetic Bribri sentences. This improves the score by an average of 1.0 BLEU, but only when the new Spanish sentences belong to the same domain as the other Spanish examples. This contributes to the small but growing body of research on Chibchan NLP.