Interspeech'2005 - Eurospeech

Lisbon, Portugal
September 4-8, 2005

Lexical Tone Perception in Musicians and Non-Musicians

Jennifer A. Alexander, Patrick C. M. Wong, Ann R. Bradlow

Northwestern University, USA

It has been suggested that music and speech maintain entirely dissociable mental processing systems. The current study, however, provides evidence that there is an overlap in the processing of certain shared aspects of the two. This study focuses on fundamental frequency (pitch), which is an essential component of melodic units in music and lexical and/or intonational units in speech. We hypothesize that extensive experience with the processing of musical pitch can transfer to a lexical pitch-processing domain. To that end, we asked nine English-speaking musicians and nine English-speaking non-musicians to identify and discriminate the four lexical tones of Mandarin Chinese. The subjects performed significantly differently on both tasks; the musicians identified the tones with 89% accuracy and discriminated them with 87% accuracy, while the non-musicians identified them with only 69% accuracy and discriminated them with 71% accuracy. These results provide counter-evidence to the theory of dissociation between music and speech processing.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Alexander, Jennifer A. / Wong, Patrick C. M. / Bradlow, Ann R. (2005): "Lexical tone perception in musicians and non-musicians", In INTERSPEECH-2005, 397-400.