Computer Speaks Yakut Thanks to Belarusian Scientists

In the Speech Synthesis and Recognition Laboratory of the United Institute of Informatics Problems of National Academy of Science of Belarus computer can read books and other literature.

Юрий Гецевич говорит с синтезатором на одном языке. Фото: Александр Ружечка

Yuras Hetsevich speaks with a synthesizer his mother tongue

The head of Laboratory Yuras Hetsevich presses buttons on a computer keyboard, and we hear familiar to any Belarusian from childhood verses of classic poetry: “My native land …”. Then the sound is in Russian, other classic lines: “My uncle is of the most fair rules …” Then the computer starts counting in the Yakut language: one, two, three …

To be honest,  I do not understand the meaning of each word individually. Still, the Turkic group of languages – Yakut, is akin to Turkish. But the characteristic of the original tone is remained. However, with some metallic echo, as if reading from a science fiction movie robot.

— That’s right, — says Yuras. — In all three cases, the poems are not read by the speaker, but by a synthesizer that is based on complex computer programs.

For the first time the author of this article saw an attempt to create a “talking machine” 30 years ago in the Minsk State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages. That time Professor Boris Lobanov tried to use for this tape recorder. With the advent of computer technology it has become much more possible. In addition to linguists mathematicians, computer scientists of the Joint Institute of Informatics Problems  help them today. Thus the original Belarusian school of computer speech synthesis and cloning was formed, which is based on several books, dozens of patents and certificates of authorship created by Boris Lobanov and his students

Today, a computer that reads aloud is in demand in various fields. For example, in teaching people with impaired vision or even totally blind. Earlier there were only books written in Braille for such people. But now the majority of books and other printed material are available in digital form. It’s not a problem to bring them on the screen. Belarusian scientists have also taught computer to read aloud digital recording. It’s enough to press a button to listen to a list of books available in the digital library, and by pressing another button to select the needed. Such a system is already used at the school for visually impaired and blind children in the Belarusian town of Maladziečna.

Recently, a speech synthesizer was designed for Yakutia. The laboratory worked together with the rector of North-Eastern Federal University named after Ammosova Yevgenia Mikhailova and her colleagues. They provided the electronic sound files of the Yakut language that Belarusian specialists have laid in its system of computer speech synthesis and cloning. And the computer spoke in Yakut.

In general, the area of the speech synthesizer application, created by Belarusian scientists, is very broad. This personal phone robot is capable of finding and delivering necessary information, recording and playing of incoming GSM-messages. It can also notify of arrival and departure of trains, and planes, urban public transport. It turns out that the computer can speak more lucidly than the most eloquent speaker.

It is symbolic that this work was done for Yakutia by Belarusian scientists. Eduard Pekarskii who was born in Minsk region was the first one who wrote the Yakut language with Latin letters and then Cyrillic. Рe was exiled to Yakutia in 1881 for his revolutionary activities, where he lived for 20 years. Already in 1887 Pekarskii with support from local enthusiasts gathered 7000 Yakut words, in 11 years there were already 20 thousand. This work formed the basis of the fundamental “Dictionary of the Yakut language”.

Author: Vladimir BIBIKOV

Photo: Alexander RUZHECHKA

Date: 14:11:04 21.05.2015