Daniele Schön (Marseille, France) and collaborators show in their study that a group of French participants, with an average age of 23, do better in learning new words associated with distinct pitches –a melody- than those being spoken in monotonous fashion (In this case really monotonous since it was a speech synthesizer). The study is especially interesting in the context of research on infant-directed speech that turns out to be quite ‘musical’ (i.e. melody and rhythm play an important role), especially when compared to ‘real’ speech, as such indirectly supporting the idea that these musical aspects actually facilitate communication and learning in infants.
However, since only language learning was tested, it could not be shown that the participants relied more on musical than on linguistic information. An effect one could expect since several studies have shown that musical information can help in memorization and learning. While the authors were able to show that
“learning a new language, especially in the first learning phase wherein one needs to segment new words, may largely benefit of the motivational and structuring properties of music in song”unfortunately —because of the experimental design used— no conclusion can be drawn about whether learners rely more on musical or linguistic information. What could be shown was that linguistic information took precedence over musical statistical cues. I would have expected the opposite, like it was found in infant studies.
SCHON, D., BOYER, M., MORENO, S., BESSON, M., PERETZ, I., KOLINSKY, R. (2008). Songs as an aid for language acquisition. Cognition, 106(2), 975-983. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.005