Bottleneck features (BNFs) generated with a deep neural network (DNN) have proven to boost spoken language recognition accuracy over basic spectral features significantly. However, BNFs are commonly extracted using language-dependent tied-context phone states as learning targets. Moreover, BNFs are less phonetically expressive than the output layer in a DNN, which is usually not used as a speech feature because of its very high dimensionality hindering further post-processing. In this article, we put forth a novel deep learning framework to overcome all of the above issues and evaluate it on the 2017 NIST Language Recognition Evaluation (LRE) challenge. We use manner and place of articulation as speech attributes, which lead to low-dimensional “universal” phonetic features that can be defined across all spoken languages. To model the asynchronous nature of the speech attributes while capturing their intrinsic relationships in a given speech segment, we introduce a new training scheme for deep architectures based on a Maximal Figure of Merit (MFoM) objective. MFoM introduces non-differentiable metrics into the backpropagation-based approach, which is elegantly solved in the proposed framework. The experimental evidence collected on the recent NIST LRE 2017 challenge demonstrates the effectiveness of our solution. In fact, the performance of speech language recognition (SLR) systems based on spectral features is improved for more than 5% absolute Cavg. Finally, the F1 metric can be brought from 77.6% up to 78.1% by combining the conventional baseline phonetic BNFs with the proposed articulatory attribute features.