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Musical competence and phoneme perception in a foreign language

Musical competence and phoneme perception in a foreign language

Published in: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Volume 24, Issue 6, December 2017, 1929-1934

“We investigated whether musical competence was associated with the perception of foreign-language phonemes. The sample comprised adult native-speakers of English who varied in music training. The measures included tests of general cognitive abilities, melody and rhythm perception, and the perception of consonantal contrasts that were phonemic in Zulu but not in English. Music training was associated positively with performance on the tests of melody and rhythm perception, but not with performance on the phoneme-perception task. In other words, we found no evidence for transfer of music training to foreign-language speech perception. Rhythm perception was not associated with the perception of Zulu clicks, but such an association was evident when the phonemes sounded more similar to English consonants. Moreover, it persisted after controlling for general cognitive abilities and music training. By contrast, there was no association between melody perception and phoneme perception. The findings are consistent with proposals that music- and speech-perception rely on similar mechanisms of auditory temporal processing, and that this overlap is independent of general cognitive functioning. They provide no support, however, for the idea that music training improves speech perception.”

Written by: Swathi Swaminathan, E. Glenn Schellenberg
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