Enhanced musical rhythmic perception in Turkish early and late learners of German

Front Psychol. 2013 Sep 20;4:645. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00645. eCollection 2013.

Abstract

As language rhythm relies partly on general acoustic properties, such as intensity and duration, mastering two languages with distinct rhythmic properties (i.e., stress position) may enhance musical rhythm perception. We investigated whether competence in a second language (L2) with different rhythmic properties than a L1 affects musical rhythm aptitude. Turkish early (TELG) and late learners (TLLG) of German were compared to German late L2 learners of English (GLE) regarding their musical rhythmic aptitude. While Turkish and German present distinct linguistic rhythm and metric properties, German and English are rather similar in this regard. To account for inter-individual differences, we measured participants' short-term and working memory (WM) capacity, melodic aptitude, and time they spent listening to music. Both groups of Turkish L2 learners of German perceived rhythmic variations significantly better than German L2 learners of English. No differences were found between early and late learners' performance. Our findings suggest that mastering two languages with different rhythmic properties enhances musical rhythm perception, providing further evidence of shared cognitive resources between language and music.

Keywords: English; German; L2; Turkish; musical rhythm; rhythmic aptitude; speech rhythm.