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Open AccessArticle

Is It Speech or Song? Effect of Melody Priming on Pitch Perception of Modified Mandarin Speech

by Chen-Gia Tsai 1,2 and Chia-Wei Li 3,*
Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan
Neurobiology and Cognitive Science Center, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan
Department of Radiology, Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei 116, Taiwan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(10), 286;
Received: 22 September 2019 / Revised: 17 October 2019 / Accepted: 21 October 2019 / Published: 22 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in the Neurocognition of Music and Language)
Tonal languages make use of pitch variation for distinguishing lexical semantics, and their melodic richness seems comparable to that of music. The present study investigated a novel priming effect of melody on the pitch processing of Mandarin speech. When a spoken Mandarin utterance is preceded by a musical melody, which mimics the melody of the utterance, the listener is likely to perceive this utterance as song. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural substrates of this speech-to-song transformation. Pitch contours of spoken utterances were modified so that these utterances can be perceived as either speech or song. When modified speech (target) was preceded by a musical melody (prime) that mimics the speech melody, a task of judging the melodic similarity between the target and prime was associated with increased activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and superior/middle temporal gyrus (STG/MTG) during target perception. We suggest that the pars triangularis of the right IFG may allocate attentional resources to the multi-modal processing of speech melody, and the STG/MTG may integrate the phonological and musical (melodic) information of this stimulus. These results are discussed in relation to subvocal rehearsal, a speech-to-song illusion, and song perception. View Full-Text
Keywords: melody perception; tonal language; inferior frontal gyrus; priming effect melody perception; tonal language; inferior frontal gyrus; priming effect
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Tsai, C.-G.; Li, C.-W. Is It Speech or Song? Effect of Melody Priming on Pitch Perception of Modified Mandarin Speech. Brain Sci. 2019, 9, 286.

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