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Effects of linguistic and musical experience on Cantonese tone word learning

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(Thesis) M.A.
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Adult non-native perception is subject to influence from a variety of factors, including linguistic experience as well as other cognitive functions such as musical experience. The present research examines how these two factors influence non-native tone perception and word learning. Native Thai and English listeners, subdivided into musician and non-musician groups, engaged in a perceptual training program. They learned words distinguished by five Cantonese tones during training, also completing pre- and post-training lexical tone identification tasks. The findings suggest that musical experience or a tone language background lead to significantly better word learning proficiency over non-musically trained non-tone language listeners. Furthermore, language background appears to influence the relevance of musicality, as the combination of tone language and musical background did not provide an advantage for learners. These results point to shared processing mechanisms of music and language, both at the level of tone identification and at the word learning stage.
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