With the unveiling of the First Public Working Draft of Speech Synthesis Markup Language 1.1, W3C is taking steps to broaden support for languages like Chinese in voice applications on the Web.

It is forecast that within three years, the World Wide Web will contain significantly more content from Chinese and Indian language families. In many of the regions where these languages are spoken, people can access the Web more easily through a less expensive mobile handset than through a desktop computer. Today the world has more than ten times as many cellphones as Internet-connected personal computers, and with an improved SSML, people worldwide will have an increased ability to listen to synthesized speech through mobile phones, desktop computers and other devices, extending the reach of computation and information delivery to nearly every corner of the globe.

SSML 1.1 improves on W3C's SSML 1.0 Recommendation by adding support for more conventions and practices of the world's languages. One new feature helps to disambiguate "word boundaries" in languages that do not use whitespace as a word boundary, including Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. SSML 1.1 allows references to language-specific pronunciation alphabets. It clarifies the relationship between the author's specified speaking voice and the language being spoken. It provides finer-grained control over lexicon activation and entry usage.

In addition, SSML 1.1 provides features to better integrate with existing and upcoming Speech Interface Framework specifications.

W3C is an international consortium where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan.


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