Strategies for Handling Out-of-Vocabulary Words in Automatic Speech Recognition

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Johns Hopkins University
Nowadays, most ASR (automatic speech recognition) systems deployed in industry are closed-vocabulary systems, meaning we have a limited vocabulary of words the system can recognize, and where pronunciations are provided to the system. Words out of this vocabulary are called out-of-vocabulary (OOV) words, for which either pronunciations or both spellings and pronunciations are not known to the system. The basic motivations of developing strategies to handle OOV words are: First, in the training phase, missing or wrong pronunciations of words in training data results in poor acoustic models. Second, in the test phase, words out of the vocabulary cannot be recognized at all, and mis-recognition of OOV words may affect recognition performance of its in-vocabulary neighbors as well. Therefore, this dissertation is dedicated to exploring strategies of handling OOV words in closed-vocabulary ASR. First, we investigate dealing with OOV words in ASR training data, by introducing an acoustic-data driven pronunciation learning framework using a likelihood-reduction based criterion for selecting pronunciation candidates from multiple sources, i.e. standard grapheme-to-phoneme algorithms (G2P) and phonetic decoding, in a greedy fashion. This framework effectively expands a small hand-crafted pronunciation lexicon to cover OOV words, for which the learned pronunciations have higher quality than approaches using G2P alone or using other baseline pruning criteria. Furthermore, applying the proposed framework to generate alternative pronunciations for in-vocabulary (IV) words improves both recognition performance on relevant words and overall acoustic model performance. Second, we investigate dealing with OOV words in ASR test data, i.e. OOV detection and recovery. We first conduct a comparative study of a hybrid lexical model (HLM) approach for OOV detection, and several baseline approaches, with the conclusion that the HLM approach outperforms others in both OOV detection and first pass OOV recovery performance. Next, we introduce a grammar-decoding framework for efficient second pass OOV recovery, showing that with properly designed schemes of estimating OOV unigram probabilities, the framework significantly improves OOV recovery and overall decoding performance compared to first pass decoding. Finally we propose an open-vocabulary word-level recurrent neural network language model (RNNLM) re-scoring framework, making it possible to re-score lattices containing recovered OOVs using a single word-level RNNLM, that was ignorant of OOVs when it was trained. Above all, the whole OOV recovery pipeline shows the potential of a highly efficient open-vocabulary word-level ASR decoding framework, tightly integrated into a standard WFST decoding pipeline.
OOV detection, OOV recovery, lexicon learning