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Re: Mel scale, in general

Dear Leon, and others,

In a musical context the chroma aspect plays a dominant role. In a speech context I have never noticed the appearance of the chroma aspect. Probably because we never talk with a limited set of fixed pitches. Or because our "vowel processor" is occupied with the meaning of the words and not with the names of the notes, which is certainly the case in the perception of possessors of absolute pitch, who are very chroma oriented.

It would be misleading to reduce the chroma aspect of pitch to labeled tones. The chroma space is octave-circular, which probably is a feature of most mammalian species. The scaling of the chroma space in each individual brain is culture dependent, but not necessarily music dependent. The pitch structure of speech of a social group can have a similar influence on a person's individual chroma scaling as the pitch structure of ambient music.

While this applies to all natural human languages, it may be less obvious in European languages. It is more obvious in the so-called lexical tone languages. Less so in the contour-tone languages of East Asia, and more so in the level-tone languages of West Africa.

There seem to be large potentials in studying the chroma scale of social groups speaking, e.g., Yoruba, which has three lexical pitch levels, or Mambila, which has four lexical pitch levels.

Connell, B., Ladd, D. R. (1990). "Aspects of pitch realization in Yoruba". Phonology 7: 1-29.

Connell, B. (2000). "The perception of lexical tone in Mambila". Language and Speech 43: 163-182.


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

----- Original Message ----- From: "Leon van Noorden" <leonvannoorden@xxxxxxx>
To: <AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, July 30, 2009 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: Mel scale, in general