The key to perfect pitch lies in tonal languages

May 7th, 2009 - 1:18 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 7 (ANI): Do you want your child to have the perfect pitch? Well, then start him or her early on Mandarin or Vietnamese lessons, that’s the suggestion of a new study.

The study, which confirms children’s excellent ability to pick up things early in life, claimed that the likelihood of developing perfect pitch seems to be strongly linked to the language people speak.

A 2006 study by psychologist Diana Deutsch of the University of California, San Diego, showed that perfect pitch is common in Chinese music students who speak Mandarin.

Mandarin, like Cantonese and Vietnamese, is a tonal language in which the pitch of a spoken word is essential to its meaning, reports New Scientist.

“In my experience, musicians in China don’t regard perfect pitch as anything remarkable because it’s very common,” says Deutsch.

To know if Chinese individuals have a genetic advantage, Deutsch’s team tested 203 music students for perfect pitch - they had to identify all 36 notes from three octaves played in haphazard order.

Those tested included 27 ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese students who had different levels of fluency in the tonal language learned from their parents.

It turned out that the Asian students scored no better than white students if they weren’t fluent in their parents’ language.

But very fluent students scored highly, getting about 90 per cent of the notes correct on average.

The study has been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. (ANI)

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