The Lion Speaks (Japanese) Tonight

The new Mac OS X release includes an optional Japanese voice capable of reading any text in phonetically accurate Japanese. Lovers of the emotionless anime girl will enjoy Kyoko’s flat affect, but they may be a bit puzzled by her odd reading choices. In a quick sample, I found that 一人 is always “ichinin”, and 行って is always “okonatte” (which made the “how to get to the gas station” example I fed it quite entertaining).

Still, it’s a decent voice, and Apple once documented how to embed pauses, pitch, speed, and phonetic hints in a string to be read by their speech synthesizer. Unfortunately, the only info I can find at the moment goes waaaay back. You could get the old Macintalk to sing, but the voices were pretty crude, and every phoneme had to be encoded by hand to get it to create plausible Japanese. Perhaps they’ll release some documentation on the modern system.