Abstract: We consider the problem of training speech recognition systems without using any labeled data, under the assumption that the learner can only access to the input utterances and a phoneme language model estimated from a non-overlapping corpus. We propose a fully unsupervised learning algorithm that alternates between solving two sub-problems: (i) learn a phoneme classifier for a given set of phoneme segmentation boundaries, and (ii) refining the phoneme boundaries based on a given classifier. To solve the first sub-problem, we introduce a novel unsupervised cost function named Segmental Empirical Output Distribution Matching, which generalizes the work in (Liu et al., 2017) to segmental structures. For the second sub-problem, we develop an approximate MAP approach to refining the boundaries obtained from Wang et al. (2017). Experimental results on TIMIT dataset demonstrate the success of this fully unsupervised phoneme recognition system, which achieves a phone error rate (PER) of 41.6%. Although it is still far away from the state-of-the-art supervised systems, we show that with oracle boundaries and matching language model, the PER could be improved to 32.5%. This performance approaches the supervised system of the same model architecture, demonstrating the great potential of the proposed method.
Keywords: Unsupervised speech recognition, unsupervised learning, phoneme classification