image of Simultaneous bilinguals who do not speak a tone language show enhancement in pitch sensitivity but not in executive



Previous studies have reported perceptual advantages, such as when discriminating non-native linguistic or musical pitch differences, among first-year infants growing up in bilingual over monolingual environments. It is unclear whether such effects should be attributed to bilinguals’ enhanced perceptual sensitivity and/or cognitive abilities, and whether such effects would extend to adulthood. Twenty-four Dutch, 24 Dutch simultaneous bilingual (DSB), and 24 Chinese Mandarin speakers were examined by three sets of tasks assessing their linguistic pitch and music perception, executive function, as well as interactions across these modalities. Results showed degrees of advantages for DSB and Chinese participants’ over their Dutch peers in lexical tone discrimination and pitch-related music tasks. In tasks related to executive function, no difference was observed between DSB and Dutch participants, while Chinese participants’ performances were modulated by cognitive interference of language processing. Findings suggest that listeners’ enhanced sensitivity to linguistic and musical pitch may stem from acoustic (DSB) and experience (Chinese) rather than cognitive factors. Moreover, Dutch participants showed robust correlations between their linguistic and musical pitch perception, followed by limited correlations in DSB, and virtually no correlation among Chinese participants, illustrating how distinct language experiences can lead to specific pitch perception patterns between language and music.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: executive function ; bilingualism ; musical pitch ; enhanced sensitivity ; lexical tone
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