17

I have an app that allows users to type some text. When the user presses a button, the text the user just typed will be synthesised into speech. It's like a "text-to-speech" thingy.

I always run into trouble introducing this to people. I want to say

The computer will ____ whatever text you typed (out loud).

I don't know what should be put into the underline part. "Say" sounds too casual and it doesn't seem "computer-y". I want to emphasise that a computer is generating the speech. Does such a word exist?

  • 11
    The computer will read out loud whatever text you typed. I think that sentence is fine. The end user doesn't care if and how the speech is synthesised, and it's clear that it's the computer that does the speaking. – oerkelens Aug 5 '16 at 9:51
  • 1
    Nothing wrong with pronounce, either. When introducing the idea, perhaps "The computer will convert into speech whatever text you typed." That shines a light at the ghost in the machine. – Phil Sweet Aug 5 '16 at 14:21
  • 7
    The computer will speak/play back whatever text you typed. – MonkeyZeus Aug 5 '16 at 15:40
  • Related: print; when a computer outputs text unto the screen it is typically called printing. – tox123 Aug 6 '16 at 22:23
  • It depends on your audience. If they are technical people, they might appreciate a more specific term that conveys the idea of synthetic speech. But if the audience is the typical man-on-the-street, they are probably going to find more technical terms unnecessarily confusing. "The computer will read aloud/speak/say whatever text you typed" is perfectly sensible and won't be misunderstood by most people. Vocalize, synthesize, etc won't necessarily make it clear to some people that you're talking about speech. – barbecue Aug 7 '16 at 1:56

10 Answers 10

15

If you are looking for a single word, verbalize works: -

Verbalize

  1. To express in words: He couldn't verbalize his feelings.

Dictionary.com

The computer will verbalize whatever text you typed (out loud).

There is a conflict of tense in the example sentence, I would rewrite it like the example that follows. As we are using verbalize, "(out loud)" is redundant I would say as common usage of the word relates to the spoken word.

The computer will verbalize whatever text you type.

Literally however, the definition can be used in non spoken context, as the Google definition implies: -

1. express (ideas or feelings) in words, especially by speaking out loud. "they are unable to verbalize their real feelings"

2. speak, especially at length and with little real content. "the dangers of verbalizing about art"

Google Dictionary

If you wanted to draw attention to the fact the computer is speaking "out loud" I would move this closer to the verb, and use aloud instead, like this: -

The computer will verbalize aloud whatever text you type.

  • @sweeper I just checked, and verbalize 'can' be used in a non auditory way, although it's unusual to use it in this context ; but I've updated my answer to reflect this. – Gary Aug 5 '16 at 10:11
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    Verbalize is a good word and this is a good answer, but I would warn that verbalize might connote too much intelligence to what could be a mechanical process. Verbalize is usually applied to abstract things ("He verbalized his anxiety over the task", "She struggled to verbalize her excitement", and so on), whereas the computer will be will not be expressing anything, just "converting" the representation of existing words from text to audio. – Harrison Paine Aug 5 '16 at 13:59
  • It's good English, but it's not good UX. "Verbalize" would come as a surprise; the expected form would be "read aloud"/"read out loud". – sq33G Aug 7 '16 at 10:41
35

As Oerkelens said, the sentence "The computer will read out loud whatever text you typed" is fine.

The verb "synthesize" is the word I encounter most frequently in a technical context. That is the term used by developers of text-to-speech software and screen readers. Here are a few examples (emphasis added):

  • "The service synthesizes natural-sounding speech from input text in a variety of languages and voices that speak with appropriate cadence and intonation." (IBM: Watson Developer Cloud: Text to Speech)
  • "Unlike Festival its start up time is very short (less that 25ms on a PIII 500MHz) making it practical (on larger machines) to call it each time you need to synthesize something." (Flite: a small, fast speech synthesis engine: System documentation)
  • "Like with the audio element, the playback of synthesized spech can be controlled with a playback UI, or by scripting. The text to synthesize can be specified in plain text, or in SSML." (HTML Text to Speech (TTS) API Specification - draf specification)
  • "Normally this variable contains a list of two function, utt.synth and utt.play which will synthesize and play the resulting waveform. In this case, instead, we wish to predict the part of speech value, and then print it out." and "You can construct multi-part songs by synthesizing each part and generating waveforms, them combining them." (The Festival Speech Synthesis System: System Documentation)
  • "It contains no digital signal processing chip, but synthesizes words in real time in an 8-MHz NEC V20 microprocessor." (Text-To-Speech)

Verbalize is also used. For example (emphasis added):

  • 1
    As a software guy (long time ago) I agree "synthesize" is the most precise term in this context, though it may not be as widely familiar. If a humorous critique of current text-to-speech (another way of characterizing the process) is permitted, I would suggest "garble." – Dalton Bentley Aug 5 '16 at 21:32
  • @DaltonBentley I have heard examples of very good TTS engines, but those are commercial and not free and open source software. – Christophe Strobbe Aug 5 '16 at 21:44
  • Good to know (Chris). I propose a Turing categorical test of computer speech where a TTS engine is input to STT (speech to text) and the resulting text is analyzed for any resemblance to the original input file. – Dalton Bentley Aug 5 '16 at 22:10
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    "Synthesize" would've been my recommendation as well. On a sidenote though, this term usually requires a text-context in which rendering (synthesizing) text to an audible material is the primary topic. – John Weisz Aug 6 '16 at 8:50
19

I would probably go with vocalize:

1: to give voice to: utter; specifically: sing

2a: to make voiced rather than voiceless: voice

(Merriam-Webster)

As in Gary's answer, verbalize could work just fine, but I feel vocalize has a bit more of an "audible" feel to it. At least for me.

The computer will vocalize whatever text you typed.

In this case, you wouldn't even need the parenthesized (out loud) to denote an audible reading of the text.

  • 2
    This is absolutely more on-point than verbalize, IMO. Unlike verbalize, it isn't used to mean "put an idea into words". – recognizer Aug 5 '16 at 14:41
  • Non-code should not be marked up as code (I would edit it, but whitespace don't count against the char limit). – Polygnome Aug 6 '16 at 16:26
  • @Polygnome: Done (one other minor edit that was appropriate here was adding the name of the source; this is part of the site's policy for referencing quotations). – sumelic Aug 6 '16 at 23:56
10

I'm surprised no one else has written this in an answer, but it seems not. Surely it's:

speak

as in

The computer will speak whatever text you typed

You say:

"Say" sounds too casual and it doesn't seem "computer-y". I want to emphasise that a computer is generating the speech. Does such a word exist?

'Speak' is less casual than 'say', and it is obvious the computer is generating the speech from the preceding three words 'The computer will speak'. I don't see why it needs to be "computer-y".

  • 1
    +1 Consider the venerable Texas Instruments Speak and Spell electronic toy from ca. 1980. Quite amazing it its day, though I noticed an irritating bug in that it insisted on spelling "colour" incorrectly. – Spehro Pefhany Aug 7 '16 at 6:43
4

Computers typically perform input/output operations, with the user providing input and the computer providing output. In your case, I would say something like:

The app will produce audio output of whatever you typed.

  • I like using outputted, although it isn't very good in grammar. – haykam Aug 7 '16 at 1:14
  • What's "audio output?" That doesn't necessarily mean speech. – Casey Aug 8 '16 at 2:56
4

While I agree that verbalize (/verbalise) is one correct option, I'll suggest a more informal option too.

The computer will say whatever text you type

It could potentially be slightly more ambiguous, because some people will use phrases like "The computer says I have to paint the wall now" when reading text, but for children or where simple language is required, "say" can be a better option.

To remove the ambiguity, just add a specific

The computer will say aloud whatever text you type
The computer will say (out loud) whatever text you type

4

I would go with annunciate.

To announce; proclaim: "They do not so properly affirm, as annunciate it" (Charles Lamb).

Or this straightforward definition from oxforddictionaries

Announce (something).

The reason I would choose this is that it is used in the discipline of control systems. It does not always refer to speech, sometimes the computer uses lights, sometimes it uses alarms. Much more machine-like. Annunciate also carries the connotation of a certain amount of inelegance or awkwardness. Otherwise the computer would simply "say" things.

2

Read aloud

That is what "Google Play Books" says for exactly the same thing you are doing.

  • Do you mean "read aloud"? Is it accurate to say that what the computer is doing is "reading aloud"? When we speak of computers reading files, we normally have in mind a process very different from the analog process of human reading, it seems to me. – Sven Yargs Aug 8 '16 at 20:37
  • Yes, I meant "read aloud". Corrected now. I do not see why this term cannot be accurate. Can you elaborate more on analog process bit? – Suhas Aug 8 '16 at 21:26
  • I mean that human "reading aloud" involves pronouncing the words viewed on a page as the eye moves across the page and the brain converts the symbols that the eye transmits to it into pronounceable words. But a computer comprehends an entire block of typed-in text almost instantaneously and then repeats that text as, essentially, an unrelated operation. It might be more accurate to call that second phase "reading back" than "reading aloud"; or maybe "reading" is itself a problematic term to use. I posed my earlier comment as a question because I'm not sure. I didn't downvote your answer, btw. – Sven Yargs Aug 8 '16 at 21:41
  • @SvenYargs Thanks for confirming that you did not downvote the answer. It is annoying when people downvote something without any comments. What you are saying is state of algorithm maturity and how those algorithms are implemented. Reading whole block of text at once is one way to implement it. Question is, should we invent a word to give this state a proper name? – Suhas Aug 11 '16 at 8:20
1

If it were me, most of the time, I'd try to get that point across by using the verb intone.

It means roughly the same as vocalize, but implies it is being vocalized with very little variance in tone or inflection. This is precisely the way computers traditionally "speak", as they usually don't have enough context about what is being said to know how to change inflection appropriately.

It can also be used when a person is reading something in that manner (typically in a religious setting, or when a person who is not a trained actor reads lines on TV).

1

The system that performs that is known as text-to-speech system, or TTS. Made into a verb, "the computer will TTS whatever text you typed".

Or, since the process itself is known as Speech Synthesis, "synthesize" is probably valid.

protected by Matt E. Эллен Aug 10 '16 at 12:57

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