The influence of music experience on nonnative phonological perception
Lim, Samantha Jieying
Date of Issue2018
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Music experience has been found to influence language processing. Previous studies reveal differences in musicians and nonmusicians across a range of speech processing tasks. A majority of these studies examine music-related transfer benefits to processing prosodic speech segments that contain shared acoustic properties in music. However, little is known about positive transfers to segmental speech processing as they are far transfers, and not immediately evident. Only a few studies have examined the transfers to segmental processing and even fewer explore such transfers beyond the native domain. Thus, this study seeks to evaluate in greater detail possible music-related transfer advantages for processing nonnative segmental contrasts, specifically in voice onset time (VOT) and place of articulation (POA), i.e. dental versus retroflex contrasts. It takes a different angle from previous studies by analyzing music experience in relation to aptitude, training, exposure and specialization and asks how these components in turn could affect transfer benefits to the perception of the target contrasts. AX, ordered discrimination and categorization tests were created containing phonotactically-acceptable Hindi nonce syllables that differed in VOT and POA. They assessed the perceptual accuracy of bilingual English-Chinese and English-Malay musicians and nonmusicians. Consistent with expectations, music experience resulted in positive transfers with significant differences reflected across groups. Musicians showed greater efficacy in perceiving and categorizing voicing and place of articulation contrasts. Results also suggest that positive transfers from music to speech are not merely dependent on musical training. Less investigated components of music experience, i.e. aptitude, sophistication, and music instrument specialization were found to predict successful performance across tests. Importantly, music exposure was not shown to affect the processing of nonnative contrasts. The significance of these findings will be discussed in relation to the widely-held belief that music training is the only contributor to music-related transfer benefits.