The Enhanced Musical Rhythmic Perception in Second Language Learners

M. Paula Roncaglia-Denissen, Drikus A. Roor, Ao Chen, Makiko Sadakata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Previous research suggests that mastering languages with distinct rather than similar rhythmic properties enhances musical rhythmic perception. This study investigates whether learning a second language (L2) contributes to enhanced musical rhythmic perception in general, regardless of first and second languages rhythmic properties. Additionally, we investigated whether this perceptual enhancement could be alternatively explained by exposure to musical rhythmic complexity, such as the use of compound meter in Turkish music. Finally, it investigates if an enhancement of musical rhythmic perception could be observed among L2 learners whose first language relies heavily on pitch information, as is the case with tonal languages. Therefore, we tested Turkish, Dutch and Mandarin L2 learners of English and Turkish monolinguals on their musical rhythmic perception. Participants’ phonological and working memory capacities, melodic aptitude, years of formal musical training and daily exposure to music were assessed to account for cultural and individual differences which could impact their rhythmic ability. Our results suggest that mastering a L2 rather than exposure to musical rhythmic complexity could explain individuals’ enhanced musical rhythmic perception. An even stronger enhancement of musical rhythmic perception was observed for L2 learners whose first and second languages differ regarding their rhythmic properties, as enhanced performance of Turkish in comparison with Dutch L2 learners of English seem to suggest. Such a stronger enhancement of rhythmic perception seems to be found even among L2 learners whose first language relies heavily on pitch information, as the performance of Mandarin L2 learners of English indicates. Our findings provide further support for a cognitive transfer between the language and music domain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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