ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

Effects of Musical and linguistic Experience On Hemispheric Processing of Prosody

Dawn Behne (1), Yue Wang (2)

(1) Norwegian Univ. of Sci. and Tech.; (2) Simon Fraser University

Brain functions associated with pitch processing are generally believed to be distributed. Broadly speaking, whereas lexical tone is processed in the left hemisphere (Van Lancker & Fromkin, 1973), findings on intonation remain mixed, indicating either right hemisphere dominance (e.g., Blumstein & Cooper, 1974), or bilateral processing (e.g., Stiller et al., 1997). Cross-linguistic research shows that native tone language speakers do not process tones of another tone language in the left hemisphere, indicating that tones are processed in the left hemisphere as language only when they are linguistically meaningful (e.g., Gandour et al., 2003; Wang et al, 2004). Research has also addressed whether musical experience affects linguistic pitch perception. Although musicians and nonmusicians may not differ in hemispheric processing of pitch in their native language (e.g., van Lancker and Fromkin, 1978), behavioral measures of linguistic pitch perception may improve with musical experience (e.g., Burnham and Brooker, 2002). Does a listenerīs combined previous linguistic and musical experience affect hemispheric processing of linguistic pitch? Is there a shift from more acoustic to more linguistic processing with experience? That Mandarin Chinese and Norwegian differ in their gradation of tone use provides a good measure of functional reliance on prosody and in this pilot study are used to address effects of musical and linguistic experience on hemispheric processing of linguistic pitch. The influence of nonlinguistic pitch experience on prosody perception was tested using a dichotic listening paradigm with two groups of native Norwegian listeners: musical trained and without musical training. To examine the effect of linguistic experience on prosodic perception, both groups of Norwegian listeners were tested with intonation patterns (statement or question) and lexical tones in both Norwegian and Mandarin. Results are discussed in terms of the functional and acoustic hypotheses (Gandour et al., 2003) which propose broad accounts for the mechanisms underlying hemispheric specialization of prosody.

Bibliographic reference.  Behne, Dawn / Wang, Yue (2005): "Effects of musical and linguistic experience on hemispheric processing of prosody", In PSP2005, 22 (abstract).