7th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

September 16-20, 2002
Denver, Colorado, USA

Absolute Pitch and Lexical Tones: Tone Perception by Non-Musician, Musician, and Absolute Pitch Non-Tonal Language Speakers

Denis K. Burnham (1), Ron Brooker (2)

(1) University of Western Sydney, Australia; (2) University of Sydney, Australia

In this paper we investigate whether musically trained non-tonal language speakers perceive lexical tone better than their non-musician counterparts. Three groups of English language speakers, non-musicians, musicians, and musicians with absolute pitch (n=24, N=72), were tested for same/different discrimination of Central Thai tone pairs. These were presented in three separate conditions: as speech (on the syllable [ba]), as filtered speech, or as violin sounds. Non-musicians discriminated tones better in music than in filtered speech, and better in each of these than in speech. Musicians without absolute pitch showed the same pattern of results but were better in all three contexts compared with the non-musicians. On the other hand absolute pitch musicians were equally good in all three contexts, and better overall than the other musicians and the non-musicians. It is concluded that speech and music perception are not independent: musical training and absolute pitch ability may affect speech perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Burnham, Denis K. / Brooker, Ron (2002): "Absolute pitch and lexical tones: tone perception by non-musician, musician, and absolute pitch non-tonal language speakers", In ICSLP-2002, 257-260.