Lexical tone perception in musicians and non-musicians

Jennifer A. Alexander*, Patrick C.M. Wang, Ann R. Bradlow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

89 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that music and speech maintain entirely dissociable mental processing systems. The current study, however, provides evidence that there is an overlap in the processing of certain shared aspects of the two. This study focuses on fundamental frequency (pitch), which is an essential component of melodic units in music and lexical and/or intonational units in speech. We hypothesize that extensive experience with the processing of musical pitch can transfer to a lexical pitch-processing domain. To that end, we asked nine English-speaking musicians and nine English-speaking non-musicians to identify and discriminate the four lexical tones of Mandarin Chinese. The subjects performed significantly differently on both tasks; the musicians identified the tones with 89% accuracy and discriminated them with 87% accuracy, while the non-musicians identified them with only 69% accuracy and discriminated them with 71% accuracy. These results provide counter-evidence to the theory of dissociation between music and speech processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages4
StatePublished - 2005
Event9th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: Sep 4 2005Sep 8 2005


Other9th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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