Large Scale Language Modeling in Automatic Speech Recognition
Large language models have been proven quite beneficial for a variety of automatic speech recognition tasks in Google. We summarize results on Voice Search and a few YouTube speech transcription tasks to highlight the impact that one can expect from increasing both the amount of training data, and the size of the language model estimated from such data. Depending on the task, availability and amount of training data used, language model size and amount of work and care put into integrating them in the lattice rescoring step we observe reductions in word error rate between 6% and 10% relative, for systems on a wide range of operating points between 17% and 52% word error rate.
A statistical language model estimates the prior probability values for strings of words in a vocabulary whose size is usually in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Typically the string is broken into sentences, or other segments such as utterances in automatic speech recognition (ASR), which are assumed to be conditionally independent. For the rest of this chapter, we will assume that is such a segment, or sentence. With we get:
Since the parameter space of is too large, the language model is forced to put the context into an equivalence class determined by a function . As a result,
Research in language modeling consists of finding appropriate equivalence classifiers and methods to estimate .
The most successful paradigm in language modeling uses the -gram equivalence classification, that is, defines
Once the form is specified, only the problem of estimating from training data remains. In most practical cases, which leads to a trigram language model.
A commonly used quality measure for a given model is related to the entropy of the underlying source and was introduced under the name of perplexity (PPL) :
A more relevant metric for ASR is the word error rate (WER) achieved when using a give language model in a speech recognition system.
The distributed language model architecture described in  can be used for training and serving very large language models. We have implemented lattice rescoring in this setup, and experimented with such large distributed language models on various Google internal tasks.
Ii Voice Search Experiments
We have trained query LMs in the following setup :
vocabulary size: 1M words, OOV rate 0.57%
training data: 230B words, a random sample of anonymized queries from google.com that did not trigger spelling correction.
The test set was gathered using an Adroid application. People were prompted to speak a set of random google.com queries selected from a time period that does not overlap with the training data.
The work described in  and  enables us to evaluate relatively large query language models in the 1-st pass of our ASR decoder by representing the language model in the OpenFst  framework. Figures 1-2 show the PPL and word error rate (WER) for two language models (3-gram and 5-gram, respectively) built on the 230B training data, after entropy pruning to various sizes in the range 15 million - 1.5 billion n-grams.
As can be seen, perplexity is very well correlated with WER, and the size of the language model has a significant impact on speech recognition accuracy: increasing the model size by two orders of magnitude reduces the WER by 10% relative.
This enables us to validate empirically the fact that rescoring lattices generated with a relatively small 1-st pass language model (in this case 15 million 3-gram, denoted 15M 3-gram in Table I) yields the same results as 1-st pass decoding with a large language model. A secondary benefit of the lattice rescoring setup is that one can evaluate the ASR performance of much larger language models.
|Pass||Language Model||Size||PPL||WER (%)|
|1st||1.6B 5-gram||LARGE, pruned||112||16.9|
|2nd||1.6B 5-gram||LARGE, pruned||112||16.9|
Iii YouTube Experiments
YouTube data is extremely challenging for current ASR technology. As far as language modeling is concerned, the variety of topics and speaking styles makes a language model built from a web crawl a very attractive choice.
Iii-a 2011 YouTube Test Set
A second batch of experiments were carried out in a different training and test setup, using more recent and also more challenging YouTube speech data.
On the acoustic modeling side, the training data for the YouTube system consisted of approximately 1400 hours of data from YouTube. The system used 9-frame MFCCs that were transformed by LDA and SAT was performed. Decision tree clustering was used to obtain 17552 triphone states, and STCs were used in the GMMs to model the features. The acoustic models were further improved with bMMI . During decoding, Constrained Maximum Likelihood Linear Regression (CMLLR) and Maximum Likelihood Linear Regression (MLLR) transforms were applied.
The training data used for language modeling consisted of Broadcast news acoustic transcriptions (approx. 1.6 million words), Broadcast news LM text distributed by LDC (approx. 128 million words), and a web crawl from October 2008 (approx. 12 billion words). Each data source was used to train a separate interpolated Kneser-Ney 4-gram language model, of size 3.5 million, 112 million and 5.6 billion n-grams, respectively.
The first pass language model was obtained by interpolating the three components above, after pruning each of them to 3-gram order and about 10M n-grams. Interpolation weights were estimated such that they maximized the probability of a held-out set consisting of manual transcription of YouTube utterances.
For lattice rescoring, the three language models were combined with the 1-st pass acoustic model score and the insertion penalty using MERT .
The test set consisted of 10 hours of randomly selected YouTube speech data.
Table II presents the results in various rescoring configurations:
2nd, MERT uses lattice MERT to compute the optimal weights for mixing the three language model scores, along with acoustic model score and insertion penalty. It achieves 3.2% absolute reduction in WER. Despite the very high error rate of the baseline this amounts to 6% relative reduction in WER.
2nd, unif uses uniform weights across the three language models, quantifying the gain that can be attributed to MERT (0.6% absolute).
2nd, no www throws away the www LM from the mix to evaluate its contribution: 1.2% absolute reduction in WER.
|Pass||Language Model||Size||WER (%)|
|2nd, MERT||5.6B 4-gram||LARGE||51.2|
|2nd, unif||5.6B 4-gram||LARGE||51.8|
|2nd, no www LM||112M 4-gram||—||53.0|
Experiments on a development set collected at the same time with the test set insert the large LM rescoring at various stages in the rescoring pipeline, using increasingly powerful acoustic models, as reported in . The results are reported in Table III.
|Pass||Acoustic Model||Language Model||Size||WER (%)|
|Baseline||baseline AM||14M 3-gram||—||52.8|
|2nd||baseline AM||5.6B 4-gram||LARGE||49.4|
|better AM||DBN + tuning||14M 3-gram||—||49.4|
|2nd||DBN + tuning||5.6B 4-gram||LARGE||45.4|
|even better AM||MMI DBN + tuning||14M 3-gram||—||48.8|
|2nd||MMI DBN + tuning||5.6B 4-gram||LARGE||45.2|
We observe consistent gains between 6% and 9% relative, 3.4-4.0% absolute at various operating points in WER due to more powerful acoustic models. As a side note, the gains from large LM rescoring are comparable to those obtained by using deep-belief NN acoustic models (DBN).
Iii-B 2008 YouTube Test Set
In a different batch of YouTube experiments, Thadani et al.  train a language model on a web crawl from 2010, filtered to retain only documents in English.
The training data used for language modeling consisted of Broadcast news acoustic transcriptions (approx. 1.6 million words), Broadcast news LM text distributed by LDC (approx. 128 million words), and a web crawl from 2010 (approx. 59 billion words). Each data source was used to train a separate interpolated Kneser-Ney 4-gram language model, of size 3.5 million, 112 million and 19 billion n-grams, respectively.
The first pass language model was obtained by interpolating the three components above, after pruning each of them to 3-gram order and about 10M n-grams.
For lattice rescoring, the three unpruned language models were combined using linear interpolation.
For both first-pass and rescoring language models, interpolation weights were estimated such that they maximized the probability of a held-out set consisting of manual transcription of YouTube utterances.
The test corpus consisted of 77 videos containing news broadcast style material downloaded in 2008 . They were automatically segmented into short utterances based on pauses between speech. The audio was transcribed at high quality by humans trained in the task.
|Pass||Language Model||Size||WER (%)|
The large language model used for lattice rescoring decreased the WER by 2.8% absolute, or 8% relative, a significant improvement in accuracy. 111Unlike the Voice Search experiments reported in Table I, no interpolation between the first and the second pass language model was performed. In our experience that consistently yields small gains in accuracy.
Large n-gram language models are a simple yet very effective way of improving the performance of real world ASR systems. Depending on the task, availability and amount of training data used, language model size and amount of work and care put into integrating them in the lattice rescoring step we observe improvements in WER between 6% and 10% relative.
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