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Cross-domain correlation in pitch perception, the influence of native language

By A. Chen, L. Liu and R.W.J. Kager


The current study explores how language experience may shape the correlation between lexical tone and musical pitch perception. A two domains (music and lexical tone) by two languages (tone, Mandarin Chinese and non-tone, Dutch) design is adopted. Participants were tested on their discrimination of Mandarin Chinese lexical tones, Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia (MBEA), and Musical Ear Test (MET). The Chinese listeners outperformed the Dutch listeners on both MBEA and MET, but had comparable accuracies for the lexical tone discrimination. Importantly, a significant cross-domain correlation was only observed for the Dutch listeners but not for the Chinese listeners. For tone language listeners, once lexical tones have been acquired, native listeners perceive them as phonological categories, and split them from other pitch variations that do not play a phonemic role. Non-tone language listeners, on the other hand, perceive both lexical tones and musical pitch on a psycho-acoustical basis, hence exhibit a unified perception of pitch across the two domains. KEYWORDS: Pitch perception, lexical tones, musical pitch, cross-domain correlation, language experience

Year: 2016
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