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Matthew G Wisniewski, James T Mantell, and Peter Q Pfordresher (2013)

Transfer effects in the vocal imitation of speech and song

Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(2):82-99.

In this study, we investigated how practice imitations of speech impacted imitations of songs and vice versa. Participants were first asked to practice imitating sung or spoken sequences, and then to imitate a new sequence, which could differ with respect to domain (speaking or singing), global pitch contour (question vs. statement pattern), and/or words. Pitch accuracy during transfer was affected by changes to domain and contour, but not text. Somewhat surprisingly, best transfer was found either when both domain and contour remained the same or both changed. Transfer performance suffered when only one feature changed and the other remained consistent. Analyses of individual differences showed that poor-pitch imitators had a harder time adopting the pitch structure of new sequences, regardless of whether the sequence was speech or song. Results were not consistent with claims for either independence or complete integration of music and language, but instead argue for differences in domain possibly based on the salience of pitch structures in the signal.

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