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Re: infants and pitch

On Monday, May 03, Alex Francis wrote:

> Rather than providing a basis for maintaining some kind of pre-linguistic
> absolute pitch perception, I think it could easily be argued that early
> exposure to a tonal language, at least one with more than one phonetically
> level tone (e.g. Thai, Cantonese), would promote the development of a
> strongly relative (talker dependent) perception of voice pitch.  ....

This is quite right. But lexical tone languages, both contour tone languages
like Mandarin and level tone languages like Yoruba, can be considered as a
particular training for the implicit versions of both absolute and relative
pitch (AP and RP). The speakers of such languages need implicit RP in any
case, due to the wide variations in pitch range between speakers. And they
can benefit from implicit AP, when meeting speakers they know well.

The same also applies to European languages, and the most fascinating detail
in the new paper by Deutsch et al. is perhaps the high consistency of word
based pitch for speakers of English. Reading word lists on different days,
ca 40 % of the speakers had a mean pitch deviation of < 50 Cent (the
corresponding figure for the speakers of Mandarin was ca 63 %).

These results are a further confirmation of the known concept of
precognitive AP as a general human trait.


Martin Braun
Neuroscience of Music
S-671 95 Klässbol
web site: http://w1.570.telia.com/~u57011259/index.htm