Polygonal Mesh Comparison Applied to the Study of European Portuguese Sounds

Polygonal Mesh Comparison Applied to the Study of European Portuguese Sounds

Paula Martins (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Samuel Silva (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Catarina Oliveira (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Carlos Ferreira (Portuguese National Functional Brain Imaging Research Network, Portugal), Augusto Silva (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and António Teixeira (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/jcicg.2012010103


The purpose of the authors’ study was to evaluate the feasibility of using a mesh comparison tool in the study of European Portuguese speech sounds. A large 3D MRI database from several speakers, including various sounds and contexts has been acquired. Segmentation, visualization, and analysis of such a large database are complex, time-consuming tasks, preventing the use of manual segmentation techniques. A more efficient semi-automatic method was devised to accomplish that task. After tongue segmentation, meshes were created from the segmented volumes and polygonal mesh comparison was used to assess differences between different sounds, vocalic contexts, syllabic positions and speakers. This is the first study using such an approach to analyze and compare tongue shape. This comparison method provides a qualitative measure enabling further insight into the main differences between speech sounds.
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Functional and morphological modeling of the vocal tract structures is of special relevance in the fields of speech production, speech synthesis and speech disorders. Biomechanical models of the oral, laryngeal and pharyngeal structures have been developed, in recent years, with a relevant contribution, not only for a better understanding of speech production mechanisms (e.g., Gérard, Perrier, & Payan, 2006; Perrier, Payan, Zandipour, & Perkell, 2003), but also for the diagnoses and treatment of speech and sleep disorders (e.g., Fels et al., 2009).

In the speech synthesis field, articulatory synthesis (e.g., Birkholz & Kröger, 2006) is one of the most promising techniques (Shadle & Damper, 2001) fulfilling the requisites for an “ideal” speech synthesizer (e.g., to easily produce different voice qualities). Articulatory synthesis produces speech using models of physical, anatomical and physiological characteristics of the human production system. This technique models the human vocal tract directly, instead of modeling the signal or its acoustic characteristics (Teixeira, Oliveira, & Barbosa, 2008). As a consequence, this type of anthropomorphic synthesizers requires large amounts of detailed anatomic-physiological information, if possible in 3D (Teixeira et al., 2005).

From a phonetic/linguistic point of view, articulatory information and 3D models are essential for improving knowledge concerning the articulation of the different sounds. It can also be used as an auxiliary tool when teaching, e.g., foreign languages.

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