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A novel bottom-up decoding framework for large vocabulary continuous speech recognition (LVCSR) with a modular search strategy is presented. Weighted finite state machines (WFSMs) are utilized to accomplish stage-by-stage acoustic-to-linguistic mappings from low-level speech attributes to high-level linguistic units in a bottom-up manner. Probabilistic attribute and phone lattices are used as intermediate vehicles to facilitate knowledge integration at different levels of the speech knowledge hierarchy. The final decoded sentence is obtained by performing lexical access and applying syntactical constraints. Two key factors are critical to warrant a high recognition accuracy, namely: (i) generation of high-precision sets of competing hypotheses at every intermediate stage; and (ii) low-error pruning of unlikely theories to reduce input lattice sizes while maintaining high-quality hypotheses for the next layers of knowledge integration. The decoupled nature of the proposed techniques allows us to obtain recognition results at all stages, including attribute, phone and word levels, and enables an integration of various knowledge sources not easily done in the state-of-the-art hidden Markov model (HMM) systems based on top-down knowledge integration. Evaluation on the Nov92 test set of the 5000-word, Wall Street Journal task demonstrates that high-accuracy attribute and phone classification can be attained. As for word recognition, the proposed WFSM-based framework achieves encouraging word error rates. Finally, by combining attribute scores with the conventional HMM likelihood scores and re-ordering the N-best lists obtained from the word lattices generated with the proposed WFSM system, the word error rate (WER) can be further reduced.