Scaling and universality in the human voice

Lucas Lacasa

Queen Mary University of London

In this talk we empirically analyse the statistics of large human speech datasets ranging several languages. We first show that during speech, the energy is unevenly released and power-law distributed, reporting a universal robust Gutenberg–Richter-like law in speech. We further show that such ‘earthquakes in speech’ show temporal correlations, as the interevent statistics are again power-law distributed. As this feature takes place in the intraphoneme range, we conjecture that the process responsible for this complex phenomenon is not cognitive, but it resides in the physiological (mechanical) mechanisms of speech production. We show that these waiting time distributions are scale invariant under a renormalization group transformation, suggesting that the process of speech generation is indeed operating close to a critical point. These results are put in contrast with current paradigms in speech processing, which point towards low dimensional deterministic chaos as the origin of nonlinear traits in speech fluctuations. As these latter fluctuations are indeed the aspects that humanize synthetic speech, these findings may have an impact in future speech synthesis technologies. Results are robust and independent of the communication language or the number of speakers, pointing towards a universal pattern and yet another hint of complexity in human speech.

This is a joint work with Jordi Luque (Telefonica Research) and Bartolo Luque (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid).


London Mathematical Laboratory, 14 Buckingham Street, London, WC2N 6DF

Date & Time

Wednesday 20th May 2015 at 14.00hrs


LML Seminars are free to attend and no registration is required.