Clearing the Transcription Hurdle in Dialect Corpus Building: The Corpus of Southern Dutch Dialects as Case Study

Anne Sophie Ghyselen*, Anne Breitbarth, Melissa Farasyn, Jacques Van Keymeulen, Arjan van Hessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper discusses how the transcription hurdle in dialect corpus building can be cleared. While corpus analysis has strongly gained in popularity in linguistic research, dialect corpora are still relatively scarce. This scarcity can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the challenging nature of transcribing dialects, given a lack of both orthographic norms for many dialects and speech technological tools trained on dialect data. This paper addresses the questions (i) how dialects can be transcribed efficiently and (ii) whether speech technological tools can lighten the transcription work. These questions are tackled using the Southern Dutch dialects (SDDs) as case study, for which the usefulness of automatic speech recognition (ASR), respeaking, and forced alignment is considered. Tests with these tools indicate that dialects still constitute a major speech technological challenge. In the case of the SDDs, the decision was made to use speech technology only for the word-level segmentation of the audio files, as the transcription itself could not be sped up by ASR tools. The discussion does however indicate that the usefulness of ASR and other related tools for a dialect corpus project is strongly determined by the sound quality of the dialect recordings, the availability of statistical dialect-specific models, the degree of linguistic differentiation between the dialects and the standard language, and the goals the transcripts have to serve.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalFrontiers in Artificial Intelligence
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • ASR
  • corpus research
  • dialect
  • dutch
  • Flanders
  • forced alignment
  • respeaking
  • transcription


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