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php – Measure the pronounceability of a word?

Posted by: admin April 23, 2020 Leave a comment

Questions:

I’m tinkering with a domain name finder and want to favour those words which are easy to pronounce.

Example: nameoic.com (bad) versus namelet.com (good).

Was thinking something to do with soundex may be appropriate but it doesn’t look like I can use them to produce some sort of comparative score.

PHP code for the win.

How to&Answers:

Here is a function which should work with the most common of words… It should give you a nice result between 1 (perfect pronounceability according to the rules) to 0.

The following function far from perfect (it doesn’t quite like words like Tsunami [0.857]). But it should be fairly easy to tweak for your needs.

<?php
// Score: 1
echo pronounceability('namelet') . "\n";

// Score: 0.71428571428571
echo pronounceability('nameoic') . "\n";

function pronounceability($word) {
    static $vowels = array
        (
        'a',
        'e',
        'i',
        'o',
        'u',
        'y'
        );

    static $composites = array
        (
        'mm',
        'll',
        'th',
        'ing'
        );

    if (!is_string($word)) return false;

    // Remove non letters and put in lowercase
    $word = preg_replace('/[^a-z]/i', '', $word);
    $word = strtolower($word);

    // Special case
    if ($word == 'a') return 1;

    $len = strlen($word);

    // Let's not parse an empty string
    if ($len == 0) return 0;

    $score = 0;
    $pos = 0;

    while ($pos < $len) {
        // Check if is allowed composites
        foreach ($composites as $comp) {
            $complen = strlen($comp);

            if (($pos + $complen) < $len) {
                $check = substr($word, $pos, $complen);

                if ($check == $comp) {
                    $score += $complen;
                    $pos += $complen;
                    continue 2;
                }
            }
        }

        // Is it a vowel? If so, check if previous wasn't a vowel too.
        if (in_array($word[$pos], $vowels)) {
            if (($pos - 1) >= 0 && !in_array($word[$pos - 1], $vowels)) {
                $score += 1;
                $pos += 1;
                continue;
            }
        } else { // Not a vowel, check if next one is, or if is end of word
            if (($pos + 1) < $len && in_array($word[$pos + 1], $vowels)) {
                $score += 2;
                $pos += 2;
                continue;
            } elseif (($pos + 1) == $len) {
                $score += 1;
                break;
            }
        }

        $pos += 1;
    }

    return $score / $len;
}

Answer:

I think the problem could be boiled down to parsing the word into a candidate set of phonemes, then using a predetermined list of phoneme pairs to determine how pronouncible the word is.

For example: “skill” phonetically is “/s/k/i/l/”. “/s/k/”, “/k/i/”, “/i/l/” should all have high scores of pronouncibility, so the word should score highly.

“skpit” phonetically is “/s/k/p/i/t/”. “/k/p/” should have a low pronouncibility score, so the word should score low.

Answer:

Use a Markov model (on letters, not words, of course). The probability of a word is a pretty good proxy for ease of pronunciation. You’ll have to normalize for length, since longer words are inherently less probable.