Date of Award

Winter 12-2016

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Ian Lane


For the past few decades, the bane of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) systems have been phonemes and Hidden Markov Models (HMMs). HMMs assume conditional indepen-dence between observations, and the reliance on explicit phonetic representations requires expensive handcrafted pronunciation dictionaries. Learning is often via detached proxy problems, and there especially exists a disconnect between acoustic model performance and actual speech recognition performance. Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) character models were recently proposed attempts to solve some of these issues, namely jointly learning the pronunciation model and acoustic model. However, HMM and CTC models still suffer from conditional independence assumptions and must rely heavily on language models during decoding. In this thesis, we question the traditional paradigm of ASR and highlight the limitations of HMM and CTC models. We propose a novel approach to ASR with neural attention models and we directly optimize speech transcriptions. Our proposed method is not only an end-to- end trained system but also an end-to-end model. The end-to-end model jointly learns all the traditional components of a speech recognition system: the pronunciation model, acoustic model and language model. Our model can directly emit English/Chinese characters or even word pieces given the audio signal. There is no need for explicit phonetic representations, intermediate heuristic loss functions or conditional independence assumptions. We demonstrate our end-to-end speech recognition model on various ASR tasks. We show competitive results compared to a state-of-the-art HMM based system on the Google voice search task. We demonstrate an online end-to-end Chinese Mandarin model and show how to jointly optimize the Pinyin transcriptions during training. Finally, we also show state-of-the-art results on the Wall Street Journal ASR task compared to other end-to-end models.