Research in second language learning has found correlations between general intelligence, musical ability, and success in learning the second language. The studies reported here concern the extent to which university conservatory students are better at perceiving and producing unfamiliar linguistic tones in Mandarin. In Experiment 1, native speakers of American English with musical training performed significantly better than non-musicians when determining whether a sine-wave tone went up, down, or remained the same in pitch. Musicians also performed significantly better than non-musicians when asked to identify the four distinctive tones of Mandarin (high-level, mid-rising, lowdipping, high-falling), which had analogous shifts in fundamental frequency to those of the sine-wave stimuli. Accuracy on the Mandarin tones for both groups was relatively low since listeners were not trained on the phonemic contrasts. Experiment 2 compared musicians and non-musicians on discrimination and imitation of these unfamiliar tones. Listeners were presented with two different Mandarin words that had either the same or different tones; listeners indicated whether the tones were same or different. All listeners had significantly more difficulty discriminating between mid-rising and low-dipping tones than with other contrasts. Listeners with music conservatory training showed significantly greater accuracy in their discrimination. Likewise, musicians’ spoken imitations of Mandarin were rated as significantly more native-like than those of nonmusicians. These findings suggest that musicians may have abilities or training that facilitate their perception and production of Mandarin tones. However, further research is needed to determine whether this advantage transfers to language learning situations.
Pelzl, Eric, Ellen F. Lau, Taomei Guo & Robert DeKeyser
2021. EVEN IN THE BEST-CASE SCENARIO L2 LEARNERS HAVE PERSISTENT DIFFICULTY PERCEIVING AND UTILIZING TONES IN MANDARIN. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 43:2 ► pp. 268 ff.
SAITO, KAZUYA, HUI SUN & ADAM TIERNEY
2019. Explicit and implicit aptitude effects on second language speech learning: Scrutinizing segmental and suprasegmental sensitivity and performance via behavioural and neurophysiological measures. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 22:5 ► pp. 1123 ff.
Toh, Xin Ru, Fun Lau & Francis C. K. Wong
2022. Individual differences in nonnative lexical tone perception: Effects of tone language repertoire and musical experience. Frontiers in Psychology 13
Wiener, Seth & Evan D. Bradley
2023. Harnessing the musician advantage: Short-term musical training affects non-native cue weighting of linguistic pitch. Language Teaching Research 27:4 ► pp. 1016 ff.
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