Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Foreign language learning in French speakers is associated with rhythm perception, but not with melody perception

There has been increasing interest in links between language and music. Here, we investigate the relation between foreign language learning and music perception. We administered tests measuring melody and rhythm perception as well as a questionnaire on musical and foreign language experience to 147 monolingual French speakers. As expected, we found that musicians had better melody and rhythm perception than nonmusicians and that, among musicians, there was a positive correlation between the total number of years of music training and test scores. Crucially, we also found a positive correlation between the total number of years learning foreign languages and rhythm perception, but we found no such relation with melody perception. Moreover, the degree to which participants were better at rhythm than melody perception was also related to foreign language experience. Results suggest that both music training and learning foreign languages (primarily English, Spanish, and German in our sample) are related to French speakersí perception of rhythm, but not to their perception of melody. These results are discussed with respect to the rhythmic properties of French and suggest a common perceptual basis for rhythm in language and music.



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