, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 169-183
Date: 22 Sep 2009

Auditory universal accessibility of data tables using naturally derived prosody specification

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Text documents usually embody visually oriented meta-information in the form of complex visual structures, such as tables. The semantics involved in such objects result in poor and ambiguous text-to-speech synthesis. Although most speech synthesis frameworks allow the consistent control of an abundance of parameters, such as prosodic cues, through appropriate markup, there is no actual prosodic specification to speech-enable visual elements. This paper presents a method for the acoustic specification modelling of simple and complex data tables, derived from the human paradigm. A series of psychoacoustic experiments were set up for providing speech properties obtained from prosodic analysis of natural spoken descriptions of data tables. Thirty blind and 30 sighted listeners selected the most prominent natural rendition. The derived prosodic phrase accent and pause break placement vectors were modelled using the ToBI semiotic system to successfully convey semantically important visual information through prosody control. The quality of the information provision of speech-synthesized tables when utilizing the proposed prosody specification was evaluated by first-time listeners. The results show a significant increase (from 14 to 20% depending on the table type) of the user subjective understanding (overall impression, listening effort and acceptance) of the table data semantic structure compared to the traditional linearized speech synthesis of tables. Furthermore, it is proven that successful prosody manipulation can be applied to data tables using generic specification sets for certain table types and browsing techniques, resulting in improved data comprehension.