Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The speaker in speech – the interdependence of linguistic and indexical information

Which features characterize speakers’ voices, and how are these features determined by what a speaker is saying?

2017 - 2022
Willemijn Heeren
NWO Vernieuwingsimpuls (VIDI) NWO Vernieuwingsimpuls (VIDI)

This research project investigates the relationship between linguistic and speaker-dependent, i.e. indexical, information in speech to discover how speaker-specific information is distributed across the speech signal. This is done by investigating how and why the speaker-specificity of speech sounds depends on different aspects of the spoken message: the speech sound’s linguistic context (e.g. in a stressed syllable or not), the speech channel (e.g. over the telephone), and the language spoken. Since single speech features insufficiently discriminate among speakers, we investigate not only potential new features, but also how features combine into optimally speaker-specific models. To answer these research questions we undertake a comparative analysis using available, large corpora of Dutch and English speech, including face-to-face and telephone conversation.

This project will further our fundamental understanding of the interaction between the indexical and linguistic layers of information in speech. The resulting knowledge and modelling of multi-lingual and multi-dimensional within-speaker and between-speaker variation of phonetic-acoustic speech features will constitute an important contribution to forensic speech science.

Project team

  • PI: dr. Willemijn Heeren
  • PhD student: Laura Smorenburg
  • PhD student: Meike de Boer
  • Promotor: prof. dr. Niels Schiller


June 2023

Lippen getuit of niet? Hoe verbeterde sprekerherkenning forensisch onderzoek kan helpen

June 2019

‘Cluedo met taal’

February 2019

Meike de Boer heeft een filmpje gemaakt voor Scientist Wanted

June 2018

Forensisch spraakonderzoek: opkomende wetenschap in Leiden

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