Category Archives: News

Fourth Variamu Workshop

The 4th Variamu workshop will be held at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, on January 6th and 7th, 2015.

Here is the programme:

The First Day (Jan. 6th, 2016)
8.30-8.45 Registration Venue: GH803
8.45-9.00 Opening Ceremony Venue: GH803
09.00-09.50 Keynote Speech William S-Y Wang

Language in Diachrony

  Themes Talks
09.50-10.45 How to compare languages Philippe Blache

Computational Typology: How to Compare Languages from Treebanks

Chu-Ren Huang

Endurant vs. Perduant: An Ontological View of How Variations are Linguistically Conventionalized

10.45-11.05 Tea Break
11.05-12.00 From party games to language resources Laurent Prévot

Quantitative Linguistics of Social Interactions

Yao Yao

Conversations in Party Games

12.00-12.55 Distributional semantics Emanuele Chersoni

Dependency-based Modeling of Joint-context in Distributional Similarity

Enrico Santus, Qin Lu, Alessandro Lenci, and Chu-Ren Huang

Not All Contexts are Equal: Automatic Detection of Antonyms, Hyponyms, Co-hyponyms, and Synonyms in Distributional Semantic Model

12.55-14.25 Lunch Break
14.25-15.20 Social variations Julie Abbou

Sounding Like You? What For? Linguistic Accommodation at the Crossroad of Individual Agency, Norms and Social Categories

Sophia Y. M. Lee

Emotion and Code-switching


15.20-16.35 Dysarthria Serge Pinto


Dysarthria : Presentation of the French – Portuguese data

Vivian LeeKaren Yiu, Jasmin Sadat, Serge Pinto, Iris Lam and Angel Chan

Speech Characteristics of Cantonese Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

Dustin Lau



Orthography Conversions in Chinese:

Evidence from a dysgraphic patient

16.35-16.55 Tea Break
16.55-17.55 Internal Discussion on Collaboration Possibilities I
The Second Day (Jan. 7th, 2016)
9.00-9.50 Keynote speech Noël Nguyen

Studies on phonetic convergence between speakers in interactional speech

  Themes Talks
09.50-10.45 Chinese as a second language Marco Cappellini

Telecollaborations and (learner) corpora for French and Chinese as Foreign Languages


Sun-A Kim

Chinese character learning: Interplay of character types, working memory, and Chinese proficiency

10.45-11.05 Tea Break
11.05-12.00 Articulation Yohann Meynadier

Make Whisper Intelligible: Aerodynamics of Voicing Contrast and Vocal Effort in Whispered Fricatives

Mantak Leung et. al.


12.00-12.55 Regional variations James German

Intonational Meaning and Regional Indexing in Corsican French Listeners

Angel Chan

Asymmetries in Cantonese Children’s Processing of Relative Clauses: Variations and Competition

12.55-14.30 Lunch Break
14.30-15.25 Neuro-imaging study of language differences Chotiga Pattamadilok

The Influence of Writing System Characteristics on Spoken Language Processing: A comparison between logographic and alphabetic system

Caicai Zhang

Neural Impairment of Tone Language Speakers with Congenital Amusia

15.25-15.35 Closing Session
15.35-16.05 Tea Break
16.05-18.05 Internal Discussion on Collaboration Possibilities II

Third Variamu Workshop


We are gald to announce the 3d Variamu Workshop to be held at the Speech and Language Laboratory, Aix-en-Provence, on 1 & 2 October, 2015.
Please find below the programme.
All welcome!

Looking forward to seeing you


Thursday October 1st

09h00-09h15:     Opening                                                                 [Room A003]

Laurent Prévot
Aix-Marseille University
Perspectives for Variamu

09h15 – 10h15: Plenary session                                                 [Room A003]

Marie-Claude Paris
IUF / Paris 7
Adverbial clauses in Mandarin Chinese: some aspects of their syntax and semantics with reference to French

 10h15 – 10h30:   Coffee Break

 10h30 – 12h00:  Session 1                                                               [Room A003]

Philippe Blache
Aix-Marseille University
Chunks and properties: a new language processing architecture
Emanuele Chersoni
Aix-Marseille University
Distributional data for constraint-based semantic parsing
Laurent Prévot
Aix-Marseille University
Quantitative Comparative Interactional Linguistics

 12h00 – 13h30: Lunch

 13h30 – 15h00:  Session 2                                                [Conference Room]

James Sneed German
Aix-Marseille University
“Lexical” statistics for prosody: Goals and challenges
Chu-Ren Huang, Menghan Jiang, Jingxia Lin
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Comparable Corpus Based Approach to Description and Identification of Varieties of Chinese
Marco Cappellini
Aix-Marseille University
Learning French and Mandarin Chinese through Skype: some conversational variations and methodological considerations.

15h00 – 15h30:   Coffee Break

15h30- 17h30: Session 3                                                    [Conference Room]

Grégoire de Montcheuil
Aix-Marseille University
4-Couv : building a new treebank based on backcovers
Jiajuan Xiong, Qingqing Zhao, and Chu-Ren Huang
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Linguistic Synaesthesia in Chinese
Francesca Strik Lievers
University of Milano-Bicocca
Synaesthesia across languages
Chu-Ren Huang
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
A Summary of Variamu sub-projects in PolyU

19h00:               Diner


Friday October 2nd

09h30-10h45:     Session 4                                                             [Room –A001]

Cathy Wong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Variation in progress–English loanwords and borrowings in newspaper columnists’ writing in Hong Kong in the 1990s                                        (video-conference)

Organisational session 1 (video-conference)

10h45-11h00:     Coffee break

11h00-12h30:     Session 5                                                 [Conference Room]

Ana Nunes
University of Macau
Considerations of Portuguese linguistic variation in Macau: VariAmu Project
Jasmin Sadat & Serge Pinto
Aix-Marseille University
Cross-liguistic comparison of dysarthria in Parkisnon’s disease: Cantonese vs. French

12h30-14h00:      Lunch

 14h00-15h30:     Organisational session                  [Conference Room]

15h30-15h45:      Coffee Break

15h45-17h30:     Organisational session                  [Conference Room]

19h30:               Diner

Mobilities go on!

Summer 2015 reveals a busy time for Variamu:

  • Roxana Fung (PolyU) had a research stay in the LPL to work on the SPPAS project with Brigitte Bigi, from March to May 2015.
  • Early July, we also welcomed Chu-ren Huang (PolyU)  and Yao Yao (PolyU) at the LPL for few days each working respectively on organisation issues and on the Werewolf project.
  • In August, it is Jasmin Sadat (AMU) who is heading to Macau and Hong Kong to supervise students from the new Master of Speech Therapy at Hongkong Polytechnic University and to work with Ana Nunes in Macau about the project “Speech in Bilingual Parkinson’s Disease Patients”.

Presentation by Roxana Fung at the LPL

Roxana Fung is currently doing a 3-months research stay at the LPL for working with Brigitte Bigi on the Adding Cantonese into SPPAS project.

We take advantage of her presence for a presentation of her current work, to be held on May 6th (11am-12am), room B011

The Asymmetry of the asymmetry: An interplay of production and perception in the multiple tone mergers in Hong Kong Cantonese

Merger is a much-studied sound change that involves the lost of contrast between two formerly distinct phonemes. It showcases the asymmetry of production and perception in sound change as numerous studies have documented that the collapse of phonemic distinction may not processing in the same rate in these two language faculties (such as DeCamp 1953, Labov et al 1991). The asymmetry fuels the hot debate on which faculty starts a sound change: perception, or production? This paper may shed intriguing lights on this debate by presenting a complicated interplay of the two language faculties in multiple and competing mergers in Hong Kong Cantonese (HKC) tones based on a study of 120 participants of three age groups. HKC stands out from other tone languages in the world by having a rich tonal inventory with six contrastive tones. However, this rich system is in the process of merging. Among the five tone pairs that exhibited merger, an asymmetry of the asymmetry was attested in that production led perception in some mergers but followed perception in others. This paper attempts to provide an explanation for the asymmetry and fill the gap of limited studies on the interaction of the two language faculties in competing sound changes.


Dr Roxana Fung is Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her main research interests are language variation and language change. She has carried out studies on voice quality and speech prosody on the distinction of Cantonese accents, variations and mergers in Cantonese tones and consonant codas, and the interplay of phonology, semantics, and pragmatics of sentence-final particles.

Jasmin Sadat will be at PolyU in August 2015

Jasmin Sadat’s  stay abroad in Hongkong is linked to two student research projects that she co-supervises together with Serge Pinto in the Master of Speech Therapy at Hongkong Polytechnic University. In these projects, the students evaluate the impact of dysarthria in Parkinson’s disease in Cantonese in a similar manner as in a current ANR project that Jasmin works on in Aix-en-Provence. However, the students do not have any neurologist support in Hongkong to administer the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale with the patients and control participants that is necessary to classify the stage of the disease. Thus, during he stay, Jasmin Sadat will meet and evaluate all the patients and control participants that were previously tested and will prepare the next steps of the data analysis for their projects. In addition, she will spend several days in Macau to reinforce the collaboration previously initiated by Serge Pinto and Ana Nunes.

Sino-European Research

Interview of Professor Chu-ren HUANG in Euraxess

The pan-European platform EURAXESS published an interview of Professor Chu-ren HUANG, Dean of Faculty of Humanities, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Coordinator of  Variamu.

The EU-funded platform provides information on Sino-European research and on high-profile personalities that shape the Sino-European research landscape, through extensive research experience including projects with European partners.

The interview is available here.

Variamu Seminar #2

Erratum: the seminar will be held on Tuesday 13th January
at 5pm (Hong Kong, Macau) / 10am (Aix)
We are happy to announce you the next Variamu Seminar, to be held Tuesday 16th December 2014, at 5pm (Hong Kong, Macau) / 10am (Aix)

Visioseminar (LPL, PolyU, Macau U)

Speech disorders in Huntington´s disease, Sydenham’s chorea and Neuroacanthocytosis
Tiago Attoni
Postdoc Fellow at the LPL (w/ Serge Pinto)
The basal ganglia are related classically to motor functions, being referred as the extra-pyramidal system. The assumed importance of these structures is seen in motor performance disorders as in Huntington’s disease, Sydenham’s chorea and Neuroacanthocytosis, whose common trait changes in the functioning of the basal ganglia. Speech motor disorders are reported as a common sign at the three diseases, characterized as hyperkinetic dysarthria which occurs mainly as a consequence of choreatic movements. The quality of speech performance is negatively affected by the involuntary contractions of vocal muscles, with incoordination of the jaw, tongue, palate, and facial movements. Thus, the aim current study was to examine principal disturbances of speech presented in the literature for these three diseases. In addition, the new study prospects of the Brazilian group.

SPPAS available in Cantonese

A new software for annotation and segmentation in Cantonese

Thanks to the Variamu project and a collaboration with Tan Lee (University of Hong Kong), Brigitte Bigi and Roxana Fung launched the new version of SPPAS including the Cantonese language (sppas-1.6.3).

SPPAS is a software developed by the Laboratoire Parole et Language to perform automatic annotations including word segmentation and phoneme and syllable segmentation from a recorded speech sound and its transcription.; it also proposes components to perform the analysis of annotated data.

The inclusion of Cantonese into SPPAS will definitely facilitate the phonetic study of Cantonese.

Further efforts will be done to improve this version (dictionary, phone set in SAMPA) and the collaboration will continue!

Scientific Report of the 2nd VariAMU Workshop

Following the 1st Variamu workshop at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in March 2014, the 2nd Variamu Workshop was held on Wednesday 20th and Tuesday 21st August 2014 at the Speech and Language Laboratory, in Aix-en-Provence.

Participants presented their new projects, new collaborations and advancements in on-going collaborations. Besides sessions dedicated to each axis, the working sessions gave room to transversal discussions about variations and corpora, as well as the preparation of the Voice Training 2015, to be held in Hong Kong. The workshop was also the chance to present the experimental platform of the Lab.

The main outcomes of the workshop are presented below.

The detailed programme can be found here.



The core of the language technologies session was based on the integration of variation phenomena in automatic treatment of speech. Different sorts of variation were discussed, from meaning variation to cross-linguistic variations, and variations in pathological speech, shedding light on new methodological proposals (multimodality, ontology and semantics) and in-development tools (SPPAS, MarsaTag).

First, Laurent Prévot emphasised the need for multimodal corpora and analysis to take account of variation at an individual, situational and linguistic level. Through a study of feed-back in several speech situations (dialogal corpora, spontaneous speech, task-orientated speech), his results showed that the most important factor of variation are the meta-data (that is, the speakers). Multimodality opens therefore path to the possibility to compare inter-individual, inter-situational, cross-linguistic and cross-cultural situation.

Brigitte Bigi and Roxana Fung presented a new Variamu project consisting into the development of the software SPPAS into Cantonese. This collaboration emerged to respond to the lack of automatic tool in Cantonese. SPPAS is an automatic speech segmentation and annotation tool based on language-independant algorithms and allowing tokenization, phonetization, alignement, syllabification, repetition, etc. In order to develop the Cantonese version of SPPAS, a pronunciation dictionary, a word-based dictionary and an acoustic model are needed. The Hong Kong Corpus for Adult Cantonese (HKCAC), an 8 hours corpus including detailed phonetic descriptions will provide material for the software. The discussion brought the issues of code-switching treatment, a frequent phenomenon in Hong Kong Cantonese (Cantonese, English, Mandarin).

Quantitative approaches for studying variations was the topic of Emilien Gorenne’s talk. He presented a study of automatic detection of variations in Schizophrenian patients’ speech. 18 features were measured, such as fluency, lexical richness, number of verbs, etc. The outcomes show inter-individual and inter-situational variations.

Grégoire de Montcheuil provided an overview of Ortolang, a collaborative project involving 6 laboratory partners. Ortolang includes a corpus and data repository (SLDR), speech annotation tools (SPPAS and Phonedit), and a speech transcription tool (MarsaTag). The presentation focused then on MarsaTag, a tool combining a tokenizer, a morphosyntax tagger, a POS tagger and a parser. Further developments will consist in building a webservice and a common XML data exchange. So far, the software is developed for written or spoken French input, while the adaptation for Chinese would be possible

Demonstrating that metaphors requires conceptual mapping from source domain to target domain, Chu-Ren Huang proposed to model the conceptual mapping of metaphor on a theory of ontology. Such a conceptual mapping principle offers three methodological and theoretical advantages: 1) to predict possible new uses of metaphors, 2) to provide a classification for non-literal uses, and 3) to measure the conceptual difference of the terms compared.


Working Session 1: CORPORA & TOOLS

The crucial goal of Variamu is to have comparable datasets in order to make cross-linguistic comparisons. For this purpose, a data repository will be created. The repository seeks to host the broadest range of types of speech and metadata: interactional data, second language data, treebanks, aligned corpora for Natural Language Processing, etc.

The repository will allow:

  • to know what can be described;
  • to list what comparable corpora are already done;
  • to know what corpora need to be built;
  • to share corpora and methodologies;
  • to publish a guidelines/best practices for the corpora to be built.

A list of useful corpora and comparable data with brief description will be designed, with the view to create a Variamu data collection on the Speech and Language Data Repository, (part of the Ortolang project). The status of the data (private or public) is still to discuss.

Brigitte Bigi (AMU), Philippe Blache (AMU), Roxana Fung (PolyU), Mantak Leung (PolyU), Grégoire de Montcheuil (AMU), and Stéphane Rauzy (AMU) will take part in the repository project.



The second session gathered works, mainly dedicated to variations both within and across languages. Prosodic, phonetic and syntactical features of Cantonese, English and French were scrutinized, mixing contrastive approaches and structural variations descriptions.

Roxana Fung exposed a comparative study of prosody in two varieties of Cantonese: Hong Kong Cantonese and Guangzhou Cantonese. Measures on vowel space (formants), voice quality, key, register, and speech rhythm were made. First results displays that voice quality and speech prosody are two promising areas to explore phonetic distinction. The outcomes were enlightened by a presentation of evaluative epi-discourses about this variation.

Reporting on the Vowel Variation in Conversational Speech project, Christine Meunier presented the first results. The project studies cross-linguistic variation of vowel reduction in spontaneous speech. To understand this phenomenon, the pronunciation of phonological neighbours is observed in different languages. Outcomes in French shows that, differently than in Spanish and English, higher is the neighbourhood, more speakers hyperarticulate, while perception is more difficult. The next step will consist in a comparison of French results with Cantonese and will include tonal factors, lexical factors (word frequency, etc.), syntactical factors (function words vs. content words) and syllabic factors (monosyllabic vs. plurisyllabic words), as well as speakers’ characteristics (vowel reduction).

If segmental features are frequently under scrutiny in pronunciation studies, supra-segmental features, such as stress, are often neglected. Word stress in English is highly unpredictable and there is a high variation across Englishes. For Hong Kong English, stress may be influenced by Cantonese tones, Cantonese stress and metric rules. After a solid review of the literature, Cathy Wong presented an experimental design methodology to study stress in Hon Kong English. The study seeks to determine if there are HKE stress patterns, and if such, whether they are structural or normative. The results could open path to comparison with other Englishes

Julie Abbou discussed the embedment of gender in language, focusing on the variation of the gender grammaticalization across languages. Through an exploratory study of translation from English to Cantonese, she aimed to compare the linguistic levels and “spaces” of gender in English and Cantonese, two so-called genderless languages. The presentation rose also questions about the status and normalisation of written Cantonese.



This session was dedicated to writing studies and pathology studies.

Chinese writing system components are made up of stroke, logographemes (cluster of strokes), radicals and characters. In his presentation Dustin Lau questioned how to delimit logographeme unit. Based on the hypothesis that the writing duration will be higher between the end of a logographeme and the beginning of the next one, than between 2 strokes from the same logographeme, Dustin Lau made a methodological proposal, consisting in measuring the time distance between stroke writing. The results show that the longest duration lies at the radical boundary. These first outcomes give avenues for next studies, such as the nature of the stimuli (dictation, radical copying, …) or developemental data, such as kid’s sequence of development.

Serge Pinto gave an update of the Speech in bilingual Parkinsonian’s disease patients project, involving Ana Nunes and him. After a presentation of Parkinsonian’s disease symptoms concerning language (among others, speech impairment due to brain damage), Serge Pinto presented the FraLusoPark protocole, gathering France, Brazil and Macau teams with the view to share it with the Hong Kong team.



The Voice Training session is a new collaborative Variamu project.

Gathering AMU, PolyU and Macau U colleagues, this training session will consist in a week of lectures and workshops addressed to the PolyU Speech Therapy School students. The Training will be held in Hong Kong, early March 2015.


Camille Galant (AMU), Alain Ghio (AMU), Antoine Giovanni (AMU), Ana Nunes (Macau U), Serge Pinto (AMU) and Joana Revis (AMU) will join the new Speech Therapy School in Hong Kong for a one-week training in collaboration with Angel Chan (PolyU), Dustin Lau (PolyU), Mantak Leung (PolyU), and Valérie Pereira (PolyU).

Dustin Lau will supervise the event.


The training will consist of:

  • 6 lectures (3h/lecture, 30 students, 2 lectures a days)
  • Rehabilitation practices workshop (1 day, 20 students groups)

The total teaching load will be 18 to 24 hours.

The Aix team will propose a provisional programme and title proposals, based on the following topics:

  • Evaluation
  • Best Practices
  • Evidence in terms of treatment approach
  • Voice and Quality of Life
  • After surgery rehabilitation.

The schedule needs to be checked in accordance with PolyU timetable in the next few days.



Too often, linguistics analyses language by separating the different factors, in order to face the linguistic complexity. However, it is now well evidenced that this separation leads to the loss of crucial elements, since understanding language implies understanding variation.

In addition, variation has long been treated as noise. It is only recently that attempts are made to integrate variation in the analysis and to understand its role in the language complexity. It remains that variation is an imprecise word.

This session shed light on the different dimensions of variation at stake in language studies.

  • The border between variation and language deficiency: is it possible to draw a scale of variation, within pathological speech is integrated?
  • Therapy as be adaptation to other constraints / range of variations
  • Multimodal variation (and inter-modal compensation)
  • Variability of expectations in communication (in terms of representation)
  • Variation as an adaptation to a context
  • Variation as a compensation
  • Language change as a variation and variation in Language change
  • Language evolution along life (perception / production)

Two transversal dimensions completed these topics:

– Variation in prototypical situations vs. Variation in actual productions

– Macro-variations (across languages: different grammar rules,) and micro variation (within a linguistic system: different relations of a given phoneme / word, etc.)

Methodological implications follow this exploration of variation dimensions:

– To measure variation (according to a given state)

– To adapt tools and theories, by taking account of variation

– To use variation measures for linguistic analysis.