Relationship Between Language and Music Processing: Evidence from Cross Linguistic Influence on Rhythmic and Melodic Perception

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Previous studies on the relationship language and music have looked at the influence of music on language and vice versa. The current study consisted of two experiments that observed the transfer of learning effect from language to music, specifically influence on rhythmic and melodic perception. Both experiments used the Musical Ear Test (MET) to assess the rhythmic and melodic aptitude. Working memory and phonological memory tasks were administered to control for individual differences. The first experiment investigated the differences in rhythmic perception among English monolinguals and Finnish multilinguals and revealed that there was no significant difference in their rhythmic aptitude. It could be attributed to the monolingual nature of the English participants and also the rhythmic properties of English and Finnish since they do not differ in metric preference. In the second experiment, Dutch speakers learning Chinese were recruited to compare their performances on the melodic aptitude test with Chinese-English bilinguals and Dutch-English bilinguals. Only Chinese English bilinguals showed a significantly higher score on melodic aptitude task than the Chinese learners and Dutch-English bilinguals. This finding suggests that learning a tonal language does not provide sufficient sensitivity in pitch processing as seen among native tonal language speakers to yield a significant transfer effect from language to music. Results also showed that Chinese learners had no correlation between the language task and musical task similar to the Chinese-English bilinguals, indicating that they tend to split the processing of lexical tones from the musical pitch variations unlike the Dutch- English bilinguals who show correlation as they perceive the pitch input from both language and music tasks as general psychoacoustic information. This study adds supporting evidence to the existing literature on the transfer of learning effect and cross domain relationship between language and music
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen