Aniruddh Patel and Joseph Daniele from the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, analyzed the rhythms and pitch variations in recordings of spoken French and English. They then compared their findings to recordings of English composers such as Elgar, Holst, and Vaughan Williams, and French composers such as Debussy, Faur_, and Roussel.
"The music differs in just the same way as the languages," Dr. Patel said. "It is as if the music carries an imprint of the composer's language."
The study suggests that finding certain works of music to be essentially English-sounding, for example, is not just a matter of patriotism. Rather, it is the recognition of this effect.
Dr. Patel said his next study would involve an investigation of how pianists from different countries bring elements of their languages to bear on performance and interpretation.
This research is the first to link melody and speech in a non-tonal language. Another current study, also presented at the ASA meeting, shows that native speakers of tonal languages such as Mandarin and Vietnamese, are more likely to have perfect pitch than non-tonal language speakers.