Soundgen: An open-source tool for synthesizing nonverbal vocalizations

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Abstract

Voice synthesis is a useful method for investigating the communicative role of different acoustic features. Although many text-to-speech systems are available, researchers of human nonverbal vocalizations and bioacousticians may profit from a dedicated simple tool for synthesizing and manipulating natural-sounding vocalizations. Soundgen (https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=soundgen) is an open-source R package that synthesizes nonverbal vocalizations based on meaningful acoustic parameters, which can be specified from the command line or in an interactive app. This tool was validated by comparing the perceived emotion, valence, arousal, and authenticity of 60 recorded human nonverbal vocalizations (screams, moans, laughs, and so on) and their approximate synthetic reproductions. Each synthetic sound was created by manually specifying only a small number of high-level control parameters, such as syllable length and a few anchors for the intonation contour. Nevertheless, the valence and arousal ratings of synthetic sounds were similar to those of the original recordings, and the authenticity ratings were comparable, maintaining parity with the originals for less complex vocalizations. Manipulating the precise acoustic characteristics of synthetic sounds may shed light on the salient predictors of emotion in the human voice. More generally, soundgen may prove useful for any studies that require precise control over the acoustic features of nonspeech sounds, including research on animal vocalizations and auditory perception.

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  • Computer and Information Science
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-792
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Volume51
Issue number2
Early online date2018 Jul 27
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes