Tone Acquisition in Second Language Learning: the effect of musical experience. A Comparison of Instrumentalists, Singers and Non-Musicians.
Lang, E. (2014) Tone Acquisition in Second Language Learning: the effect of musical experience. A Comparison of Instrumentalists, Singers and Non-Musicians., no. 73.
The current study is based on the findings of recent research suggesting that the perceptual domains of music and language are interlinked (Bidelman, Hutka and Moreno 2013, Cooper and Wang 2012). A specific interest that has stemmed from this evidence, questions whether musical experience in an individual facilitates greater success when acquiring lexical tone as part of learning a second language (Wayland et al 2010, Gottfried and Xu 2008, Alexander at el 2005). It has been proposed that, in addition to musicians having an advantage in tonal acquisition abilities, the particular background of singing may facilitate more success in learning to produce lexical tones after training due to the common principle of manipulating the vocal tract to produce contrasts in fundamental frequency (F0) (Alexander et al 2005). This study therefore compares the abilities of singers, instrumentalists and non-musicians to perceive and produce Cantonese lexical tones before, during and after training. Each participant attended a baseline session, three tutorial sessions and a maintenance session which took place a week after the final tutorial. Training material included references to musical intervals in order to further investigate the link between musical and linguistic domains. Results from perception and production tasks carried out after each session found a significant effect of training found for the perception of tones 55, 21 and 22, however no significant effect of musicianship was demonstrated. In terms of perception, musicians did not benefit from training significantly more than non-musicians. Productions were acoustically analysed, and canonical contour patterns allowed comparison to native F0 height and contour. It was found that both singers and instrumentalists were overall most successful in approximating productions closest to native norms, and that singers were most successful in producing native-like contours. Singers were the most successful group at maintaining productions a week after training. Possible future research could investigate a comparison between similar abilities in currently practicing and not currently practicing musicians.