Native language influence on brass instrument performance: An application of generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to midsagittal ultrasound images of the tongue (2019)
This paper presents the findings of an ultrasound study of 10 New Zealand English and 10 Tongan-speaking trombone players, to determine whether there is an influence of native language speech production on trombone performance. Trombone players’ midsagittal tongue shapes were recorded while reading wordlists and during sustained note productions, and tongue surface contours traced. After normalizing to account for differences in vocal tract shape and ultrasound transducer orientation, we used generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to estimate average tongue surface shapes used by the players from the two language groups when producing notes at different pitches and intensities, and during the production of the monophthongs in their native languages. The average midsagittal tongue contours predicted by our models show a statistically robust difference at the back of the tongue distinguishing the two groups, where the New Zealand English players display an overall more retracted tongue position; however, tongue shape during playing does not directly map onto vowel tongue shapes as prescribed by the pedagogical literature. While the New Zealand Englishspeaking participants employed a playing tongue shape approximating schwa and the vowel used in the word ‘lot,’ the Tongan participants used a tongue shape loosely patterning with the back vowels /o/ and /u/. We argue that these findings represent evidence for native language influence on brass instrument performance; however, this influence seems to be secondary to more basic constraints of brass playing related to airflow requirements and acoustical considerations, with the vocal tract configurations observed across both groups satisfying these conditions in different ways. Our findings furthermore provide evidence for the functional independence of various sections of the tongue and indicate that speech production, itself an acquired motor skill, can influence another skilled behavior via motor memory of vocal tract gestures forming the basis of local optimization processes to arrive at a suitable tongue shape for sustained note production.
CitationDerrick D, Heyne M, Al-Tamimi J (2019). Native language influence on brass instrument performance: An application of generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to midsagittal ultrasound images of the tongue. Frontiers in Psychology:. 10. 1-26.
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Keywordslaboratory phonology; speech motor control; ultrasound imaging of the tongue; brass instrument performance; motor memory; acoustic to articulatory mapping; generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs); dispersion theory
ANZSRC Fields of Research47 - Language, communication and culture::4704 - Linguistics::470410 - Phonetics and speech science
19 - Studies in the Creative Arts and Writing::1904 - Performing Arts and Creative Writing::190409 - Musicology and Ethnomusicology
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Heyne, M.; Derrick, Donald (University of Canterbury. New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain & Behaviour, 2015)This paper builds on initial evidence of First Language influence on brass playing presented in Heyne and Derrick (2013)  by indicating how tongue positioning might affect trombone timbre. Ultrasound imaging ...
Heyne, M.; Derrick, Donald (University of Canterbury. New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain & Behaviour, 2014)This paper presents some initial findings regarding the influence of First Language on playing brass instruments. Using ultra- sound imaging of the tongue, vowel production and sustained trombone notes were compared for a ...
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