A Master of Arts thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Aya Mohammed Sallam entitled, “Music Aptitude and Phonemic Processing”, submitted in November 2022. Thesis advisor is Dr. Ji Young Shim. Soft copy is available (Thesis, Completion Certificate, Approval Signatures, and AUS Archives Consent Form).
Music aptitude and second language (L2) phonemic processing are said to be connected via the processing of sounds, which also known as acoustic processing. Previous literature on this topic discusses how vowels are associated with musical chords and harmonic frequencies while consonants are associated with staccato and legato in music. Results from many previous studies strongly indicate that music aptitude may facilitate the processing of vowels in an L2 whereas results on music aptitude and L2 consonant processing are inconsistent.
While some argue that music aptitude may facilitate consonant phonemic processing (Jekiel & Malarsji, 2021; Magne et al., 2016; Sadakata & Sekiyama, 2011), others claim that there is no correlation between music aptitude and consonant phonemic processing (Milovanov & Tervaniemi, 2010; Swaminathan & Schellenberg, 2017). Against this background, the current study investigated whether music aptitude of Arabic speakers is closely related to their L2 English consonant phonemic processing, with particular focus on the three English consonant phonemes that do not exist in Arabic, /p/, /v/, and /θ/. They were compared to three phonemes, /b/, /f/, and /s/, which exist both Arabic and English. Results from 30 Arabic speakers showed that Arabic speakers’ music aptitude and their consonant phonemic processing in English were strongly correlated (p < .05). In other words, Arabic speakers with better music aptitude perceived the three English phonemes that do not exist in their native language. On the other hand, there was no difference in response time, which suggests that better L2 phonemic processing is not related to faster L2 phonemic processing. The findings of the study also suggest music as a pedagogical tool to teaching English as an L2 and in an L2 classroom overall.