Peter Q Pfordresher and Steven Brown (2009)
Enhanced production and perception of musical pitch in tone language speakers
Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 71(6):1385-1398.
Individuals differ markedly with respect to how well they can imitate pitch through singing and in their ability to perceive pitch differences. We explored whether the use of pitch in one's native language can account for some of the differences in these abilities. Results from two studies suggest that individuals whose native language is a tone language, in which pitch contributes to word meaning, are better able to imitate (through singing) and perceptually discriminate musical pitch. These findings support the view that language acquisition fine-tunes the processing of critical auditory dimensions in the speech signal and that this fine-tuning can be carried over into nonlinguistic domains.