Music and Second-Language Acquisition: Examining the Connection Between Musical Aptitude and Japanese Pitch Accent Proficiency

French, Madeline
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Acquiring the prosody of a second language (L2) is a notoriously difficult feat. Researchers interested in exploring how this process might be made easier have looked to a potential relationship between musical and linguistic pitch processing in the brain, theorizing that L2 learners with elevated musicality might have an advantage in acquiring L2 prosody. While several research studies have successfully demonstrated a musicality advantage in L2 prosody acquisition, most of this research has been limited to the acquisition of tonal language prosody, which differs from other speech prosody types, like pitch accent, in its fundamental purpose and structure. To determine whether the musicality advantage extends to L2 learners of pitch accent languages, the present study measured the musical aptitude and pitch accent proficiency (both productive and perceptive) of 28 late L2 learners of Standard Japanese. Data analyses demonstrated that musical aptitude scores, particularly in pitch-related musical sectors, had a strong and significant relationship with both productive and perceptive prosody scores. These results suggest that music may have a place in the development of pedagogical and learning strategies for L2 learners of pitch accent languages.

Second-language acquisition., Japanese pitch accent.