Language-selective interference with long-term memory for musical pitch

I. Hui Hsieh, Kourosh Saberi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This study examines linguistic influences on musical pitch processing and provides evidence for a form of language-selective interference with absolute-pitch (AP) memory. We show that voiced solfege syllables whose fundamental frequencies and harmonic structures are digitally shifted to precisely map onto a mismatched musical note can selectively interfere with pitch identification by some but not other AP musicians. Interference diminishes as the stimulus spectrum is increasingly lowpass filtered to remove its broadband speech features. Time reversal of mismatched pitch-syllable "hybrids", which distorts their phase spectra but leaves their amplitude spectra intact, also substantially reduces interference. These findings support recent theories of AP encoding that propose an intrinsic association between linguistic cues and stored pitch representations in extraction and accurate labeling of pitch from long-term memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-593
Number of pages6
JournalActa Acustica united with Acustica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008


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