Previous research shows that music ability provides positive effects on language processing. This study aims at better clarifying the involvement of different linguistic subdomains in this cross-domain link, assessing whether or not musicality and music expertise enhance phonological and lexical tone processing of Mandarin Chinese. In two experiments different groups of adults and children with no previous experience in tonal languages, were invited to perform a same-different task trying to detect phonological and tonal variations in pairs of sequences of monosyllabic Mandarin Chinese words. Main results show that all subjects perform significantly better in detecting phonological variations rather than tonal ones. They also show that both melodic proficiency and music expertise are good predictors for a better tonal, but not phonological identification. Data lead to a model of music-to-language transfer effect in which musicality selectively affects linguistic intonation while leaving phonological processing substantially unaffected.
From melody to lexical tone: Musical ability enhances specific aspects of foreign language perception / Delogu, Franco; Giulia, Lampis; Olivetti, Marta. - In: EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. - ISSN 0954-1446. - 22:1(2010), pp. 46-61. [10.1080/09541440802708136]