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Title: The role of musical aptitude in the pronunciation of English vowels among Polish learners of English
Authors: Jekiel, Mateusz
Malarski, Kamil
Keywords: L2 pronunciation acquisition
musical aptitude
musical hearing
vowel acquisition
L2 English
Polish learners of English
Issue Date: 11-Jun-2016
Abstract: It has long been held that people who have musical training or talent acquire L2 pronunciation more successfully than those that do not. Indeed, there have been empirical studies to support this hypothesis (Pastuszek-Lipińska 2003, Fonseca-Mora et al. 2011, Zatorre and Baum 2012). However, in many of such studies, musical abilities in subjects were mostly verified through questionnaires rather than tested in a reliable, empirical manner. Therefore, we run three different musical hearing tests, i.e. pitch perception test, musical memory test, and rhythm perception test (Mandell 2009) to measure the actual musical aptitude in our subjects. The main research question is whether a better musical ear correlates with a higher rate of acquisition of English vowels in Polish EFL learners. Our group consists of 40 Polish university students studying English as their major who learn the British pronunciation model during an intense pronunciation course. 10 male and 30 female subjects with mean age of 20.1 were recorded in a recording studio. The procedure comprised spontaneous conversations, reading passages and reading words in isolation. Vowel measurements were conducted in Praat in all three speech styles and several consonantal contexts. The assumption was that participants who performed better in musical tests would produce vowels that are closer to the Southern British English model. We plotted them onto vowel charts and calculated the Euclidean distances. Preliminary results show that there is potential correlation between specific aspects of musical hearing and different elements of pronunciation. The study is a longitudinal project and will encompass two more years, during which we will repeat the recording procedure twice to measure the participants’ progress in mastering the English pronunciation and comparing it with their musical aptitude.
Fonseca-Mora, M., Toscano-Fuentes, C. and K. Wermke. 2011. "Melodies that help: The Relation between Language Aptitude and Musical Intelligence", Anglistik International Journal of English Studies 22, 1: 101-118.
Mandell, J. 2009. Electronic Music and Medical Education. ( (date of access: 9 November 2014).
Pastuszek-Lipińska, B. 2008. "Musicians outperform nonmusicians in speech imitation", Lecture Notes in Computer Science 4969: 56-73.
Zatorre, R. and S. Baum. 2012. "Musical melody and speech intonation: singing a different tune", PLoS Biology 10, 7: e1001372.
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