New Tools and Methods for
Very-Large-Scale Phonetics Research

University of Pennsylvania, January 28-31, 2011.
Important Dates
Venue & Accommodation
Penn Forced Aligner

Workshop Overview

The field of phonetics has experienced two revolutions in the last century: the advent of the sound spectrograph in the 1950s and the application of computers beginning in the 1970s. Today, advances in computation, networking and mass storage are promising a third revolution: a movement from the study of small, mostly artificial datasets to the analysis of published corpora of natural speech that are thousands of times larger.

To welcome and promote this revolution, we are organizing a workshop on new tools and methods for Very-Large-Scale phonetics research, as part of a newly awarded NSF grant. The themes of the workshop include: integration of speech technology in phonetics studies (including 
software to facilitate teaching and research); variation and invariance in large speech corpora; and revisiting classic phonetic and phonological problems from the perspective of corpus phonetics. A tutorial on forced alignment and the Penn Phonetics Lab Forced Aligner will also be provided prior to the workshop.

Selected papers from the workshop will be published in a special issue of The Journal of Experimental Linguistics.

The last day of the workshop (January 31) is for those interested in discussing development of tools suitable for teaching acoustic-phonetic analysis to beginners while allowing smooth progression to efficient advanced research protocols. The aim is to capitalize on the strengths of existing freeware systems, losing none of their capabilities, while providing as unified a platform as possible for future development. Questions to be addressed include:

  • What free or low-cost software is currently available?
  • Of competing systems or platforms, which is best for what purpose, and why?
  • How can currently available platforms be adapted to preserve the best of each and minimize disruption for currently expert users who want to exploit the new integrated platform? (i.e. what is needed to develop an interface between the new and existing platforms?)
  • What capabilities might be most conducive to flexibility and efficiency for users?

The last day will mainly comprise focussed discussion groups, with formal presentations kept to a minimum. Themes of the discussion groups will include properties of an ideal system (e.g. balancing flexibility/efficiency against ease of initial learning; scripting language; efficient batch processing) and specific applications (e.g. accessibility for beginning phoneticians; linking to large corpora and their search tools; compatibility with other applications; statistical analyses; content of syllabi and manuals). Details will be finalised in the run-up to the workshop, based on participants’ suggestions.

Invited Speakers

  • Alan Black, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Louis Goldstein, University of Southern California
  • Daniel Hirst, CNRS and Université de Provence
  • Bill Labov, University of Pennsylvania

Important Dates

  • Jan. 14, 2011: Registration deadline
  • Jan. 28, 2011: Tutorial on forced alignment
  • Jan. 29-31, 2011: VLSP main workshop
  • Jan. 31, 2011: Software to Empower Learning and Research in Speech (STELARIS) workshop

Organizing Committee

Mark Liberman, University of Pennsylvania (Jan 29-30)
Andreas Stolcke, SRI International and ICSI (Jan 29-30)
Jiahong Yuan, University of Pennsylvania (Jan 29-30)
Suzanne Boyce, University of Cincinnati (Jan 31)
Francesco Cutugno, University Federico II, Naples, Italy (Jan 31)
Sarah Hawkins, University of Cambridge (Jan 31)

Phonetics Laboratory
Department of Linguistics
623 Williams Hall (campus map)
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Telephone: (215) 898-0083
Fax: (215) 573-2091
For more information, contact Jiahong Yuan at