It was about one and a half years ago that I finally I arrived where I had always wanted to be and do what I had always wanted-- teach students, support small language communities and conduct research on African languages on my doorstep. The University of Cape Town and my new colleagues welcomed my efforts to establish the Centre for African Language Diversity-- CALDi as well as The African Language Archive-- TALA and I was recently appointed the Mellon Research Chair: African Language Diversity this initiative. The main aim of CALDi is to train young African scholars in descriptive linguistics and open up space for research into African languages at UCT with the hopes of countering the dominance of African linguistics outside the continent. It has been a great challenge for which my whole career has been a form of preparation...Read more
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Segmenting words from natural speech: subsegmental variation in segmental cues
Most computational models of word segmentation are trained and tested on transcripts of speech, rather than the speech itself, and assume that speech is converted into a sequence of symbols prior to word segmentation. We present a way of representing speech corpora that avoids this assumption, and preserves acoustic variation present in speech. We use this new representation to re-evaluate a key computational model of word segmentation. One finding is that high levels of phonetic variability degrade the model's performance. While robustness to phonetic variability may be intrinsically valuable, this finding needs to be complemented by parallel studies of the actual abilities of children to segment phonetically variable speech.