Is pitch perception and discrimination of vowels language-dependent and influencd by the vowels spectral properties?
Pitch discrimination and accuracy has been found to depend on different factors. However, little work has been done (1) on the cross-linguistic influence of the listeners' native language and (2) on the influence of the spectral structure on the pitch perception of vowels as well as (3) cross-linguistic differences regarding different levels of muscial education. If differences in pitch discrimination between different language families exist this would be a crucial knowledge in the design and failure-safe application of auditory displays driven by pitch differences in speech control. Therefore the current study examines pitch discrimination of German vowels with a similar vowel height differing in rounding and tenseness for (1) native German listeners and (2) native Catalan listeners. Significant differences in the sensitivity of pitch perception between these two languages were found. Catalan listeners, independent of their musical education, were mostly insensitive to even large pitch differences in the vowels to be judged. The accuracy of pitch judgements for German listeners were significantly different for musically educated listeners in comparison to musically uneducated listeners. Further, both languages show a significant pitch difference for rounded vowels compared to the unrounded vowels. The current study provides evidence that pitch discrimination is language-dependent, at least partially.