The interaction of language and music: a psycholinguistic approach for a shared pitch mechanism (?)
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Over the last decades there is an increasing interest in the comparative research between language and music. A significant amount of studies has focused on the shared underlying processes in both domains (e.g. Patel et al., 1998; Patel, 2003; Slevc et al., 2009; Fedorenko et al., 2009, Jiang et al., 2010). While evidence is contradictory (e.g. Peretz, 1993; 2008; Peretz et al., 1994; Peretz & Coltheart 2003; Chen et al., 2018), no prior research denies the apparent similarities of language and music with respect to the structural rules and principles required for the linguistic and musical adequacy. Following previous claims that intonation shapes the word boundaries eliminating sentence ambiguities (Papangeli & Marinis, 2010), the present research thesis proposes a self-paced reading-listening experiment to investigate whether musical pitch can substitute the use of intonation in ambiguous contexts. As a result, it would indicate that non-linguistic acoustic cues, such as music pitch, may contribute to language comprehension, specifically to disambiguation. This is expected to become evident through the comparison of reading times across ambiguous and non ambiguous (control) conditions, under high, neutral and low musical pitch exposure. The results show that although there are indications that high musical pitch exposure facilitates processing of the ambiguous sentences, it did not reach significance, rejecting the experimental hypothesis. However, the present thesis concludes that language and music might share a common pitch mechanism. Such findings could further contribute to our understanding of the brain organization and the underlying shared general cognitive mechanisms. Lastly, it could also be departure for treatment approaches from unimpaired domains to impaired ones in clinical cases such as, aphasia and amusia.