MakeLanguage – Synthetic Accents
MakeLanguage is a trilogy on the arrival of synthetic spoken language produced from text by computers (text to speech, or TTS) in everyday life. The project began around 2004, as desktop dictation and navigation systems with computer-generated voices entered the global marketplace.
MakeLanguage – Synthetic Accents queries the altered position of identity introduced by synthetic speech in daily life with a speculative robotic intervention. The project enters this territory by reconfiguring the internal procedures of a high-end speech engine and bending them to produce spoken-language artifacts that the system was never designed to produce.
Digital signal processing can create arbitrary signals, most of which have no relationship to those human beings are capable of uttering. Despite the universality of the technical infrastructure, TTS systems are usually designed along national fault lines with localized voice fonts and linguistically identifiable entities; there are Sarahs for US English, Heathers for UK English, and Günthers for German. It comes as no surprise that commercial TTS systems do not offer speech products with ‘undesirable’ features such as slurred speech or strong accents. Synthetic voices are normalized, invoking through the proficiency of the machine an idealized human being.
Mixed language SAMPA (computer-readable phonetic alphabet) encoding used in the crafting of MakeLanguage - Synthetic Accents.
In humans, accents are an audible map of a life lived. In machines, accented speech creates the illusion of a human with a story. MakeLanguage – Synthetic Accents creates accented English (Frenglish, Genglish, and Spanglish accents in limited vocabularies) to speculate upon the imagined lives of these accents without origins. To me, these voices seem most appropriate for what French anthropologist Marc Augé called non-lieux, or non-places.
And what might the first word uttered by a machine that can perceive the world around it be?
For more information about Mark Böhlen and his work, please visit realtechsupport.org.