Native language, L2 experience, and pitch processing in music

Ao Chen*, Melis Cetincelik, M. Paula Roncaglia-Denissen, Makiko Sadakata

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The current study investigated how the role of pitch in one's native language and L2 experience influenced musical melodic processing by testing Turkish and Mandarin Chinese advanced and beginning learners of English as an L2. Pitch has a lower functional load and shows a simpler pattern in Turkish than in Chinese as the former only contrasts between presence and the absence of pitch elevation, while the latter makes use of four different pitch contours lexically. Using the Musical Ear Test as the tool, we found that the Chinese listeners outperformed the Turkish listeners, and the advanced L2 learners outperformed the beginning learners. The Turkish listeners were further tested on their discrimination of bisyllabic Chinese lexical tones, and again an L2 advantage was observed. No significant difference was found for working memory between the beginning and advanced L2 learners. These results suggest that richness of tonal inventory of the native language is essential for triggering a music processing advantage, and on top of the tone language advantage, the L2 experience yields a further enhancement. Yet, unlike the tone language advantage that seems to relate to pitch expertise, learning an L2 seems to improve sound discrimination in general, and such improvement exhibits in non-native lexical tone discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • music advantage
  • tone language
  • L2
  • L2 proficiency
  • TRAINING JAPANESE LISTENERS
  • LONG-TERM RETENTION
  • R-VERTICAL-BAR
  • TONE PERCEPTION
  • 2ND-LANGUAGE
  • PROFICIENCY
  • IDENTIFICATION
  • BILINGUALS
  • PLASTICITY
  • SPEAKERS

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