Evaluating language environment analysis system performance for Chinese: a pilot study in Shanghai

Jill Gilkerson, Yiwen Zhang, Dongxin Xu, Jeffrey A Richards, Xiaojuan Xu, Fan Jiang, James Harnsberger, Keith Topping
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research: JSLHR 2015, 58 (2): 445-52

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate performance of the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) automated language-analysis system for the Chinese Shanghai dialect and Mandarin (SDM) languages.

METHOD: Volunteer parents of 22 children aged 3-23 months were recruited in Shanghai. Families provided daylong in-home audio recordings using LENA. A native speaker listened to 15 min of randomly selected audio samples per family to label speaker regions and provide Chinese character and SDM word counts for adult speakers. LENA segment labeling and counts were compared with rater-based values.

RESULTS: LENA demonstrated good sensitivity in identifying adult and child; this sensitivity was comparable to that of American English validation samples. Precision was strong for adults but less so for children. LENA adult word count correlated strongly with both Chinese characters and SDM word counts. LENA conversational turn counts correlated similarly with rater-based counts after the exclusion of three unusual samples. Performance related to some degree to child age.

CONCLUSIONS: LENA adult word count and conversational turn provided reasonably accurate estimates for SDM over the age range tested. Theoretical and practical considerations regarding LENA performance in non-English languages are discussed. Despite the pilot nature and other limitations of the study, results are promising for broader cross-linguistic applications.

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