“Transcription bottlenecks”, created by a shortage of effective human transcribers (i.e., transcriber shortage), are one of the main challenges to endangered language (EL) documentation. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) has been suggested as a tool to overcome such bottlenecks. Following this suggestion, we investigated the effectiveness for EL documentation of end-to-end ASR, which unlike Hidden Markov Model ASR systems, eschews linguistic resources but is instead more dependent on large-data settings. We open source a Yoloxóchitl Mixtec EL corpus. First, we review our method in building an end-to-end ASR system in a way that would be reproducible by the ASR community. We then propose a novice transcription correction task and demonstrate how ASR systems and novice transcribers can work together to improve EL documentation. We believe this combinatory methodology would mitigate the transcription bottleneck and transcriber shortage that hinders EL documentation.
Documentation of endangered languages (ELs) has become increasingly urgent as thousands of languages are on the verge of disappearing by the end of the 21st century. One challenging aspect of documentation is to develop machine learning tools to automate the processing of EL audio via automatic speech recognition (ASR), machine translation (MT), or speech translation (ST). This paper presents an open-access speech translation corpus of Highland Puebla Nahuatl (glottocode high1278), an EL spoken in central Mexico. It then addresses machine learning contributions to endangered language documentation and argues for the importance of speech translation as a key element in the documentation process. In our experiments, we observed that state-of-the-art end-to-end ST models could outperform a cascaded ST (ASR > MT) pipeline when translating endangered language documentation materials.
This paper describes three open access Yoloxóchitl Mixtec corpora and presents the results and implications of end-to-end automatic speech recognition for endangered language documentation. Two issues are addressed. First, the advantage for ASR accuracy of targeting informational (BPE) units in addition to, or in substitution of, linguistic units (word, morpheme, morae) and then using ROVER for system combination. BPE units consistently outperform linguistic units although the best results are obtained by system combination of different BPE targets. Second, a case is made that for endangered language documentation, ASR contributions should be evaluated according to extrinsic criteria (e.g., positive impact on downstream tasks) and not simply intrinsic metrics (e.g., CER and WER). The extrinsic metric chosen is the level of reduction in the human effort needed to produce high-quality transcriptions for permanent archiving.