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Acoustical Meeting, Nov. 10-14, 2008 in Miami, Florida
Date:11/5/2008

s, such as English, do not use pitch to signal the meaning of a word. For example, in English, the word "dog" always means "dog," regardless of its pitch. Given their experience using word-level pitch, the research team surmised that native tone-language speakers might process music pitch differently than non-tone-language speakers. To investigate this difference, native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and native speakers of English were asked to identify short music melodies by matching the melody they heard to its visual representation (a series of arrows that indicated pitch rises and falls). They were also asked to discriminate between the melodies by indicating whether any two were identical or different.

Relative to the English speakers, the Mandarin speakers more easily discriminated, but less easily identified, the music melodies. This difference in performance across the two language groups may be taken to support the notion that music-pitch and speech-pitch are processed via common cognitive mechanisms. In addition, the research team posited that the pitch identification task -- where listeners had to match musical pitch patterns to visual representations of those patterns -- was subject to the influence of existing linguistic pitch categories for the Mandarin listeners. In contrast, the English listeners could perform the musical pitch pattern identification task without interference from any pre-existing pitch categories. However, in the pitch discrimination task -- where listeners do not compare the input to stored categories but instead focus on small acoustic differences between pairs -- the Mandarin listeners' discrimination seemed to be enhanced relative to that of the English listeners, possibly due to their experience with linguistic tone discrimination.

The results of this study could be used by teachers and students, who might use their experience with linguistic pitch to tailor their approaches to teaching and learning about
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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