Is There A “Window Of Time” For The Development Of Language and Music Abilities?

12 Nov

Researchers have proposed a developmental model in which the formation of certain musical and language abilities correlate with specific training and practice.  For instance, there might be critical periods for the acquisition of absolute pitch and development of rhythmic perception. Heller and Campbell (1972) theorized that this period of time occurs between the time of birth and diminishes between the ages of 6 to 10.  If specialized practice of music and speech abilities occurs between this period, children seem to absorb implicit rules of language and music of their culture.  This includes rules on tonality (preparation and resolution) and linguistics or semantics (such as the order of adjectives, “small blue truck” versus “blue small truck”).

Jack J. Heller and Maria B. Athanasulis recruited forty 1st graders, 3rd graders, and 5th graders to participate in biweekly music lessons.  After the lessons were finished (for how many weeks? the researchers never stated), all grades were administrated the same music and verbal tests that consisted of 30 verbal and music tasks.  Each task required the participants to differentiate between three recordings of the same musical phrase performed on a clarinet, cello, or piano (music condition) and various spoken phrases (verbal condition).  In each task, two of the phrases were replications, while the other was a different “interpretation” of the musical or verbal phrase.  It was the objective of the participants to distinguish which phrase out of the three was the “interpretation.”

The results showed that the ability to discern between the three variations of the music and verbal phrases, increased between the ages 6 and 8, and slowly leveled off between the ages of 8 and 10. With the current “window theory” proposing that growth occurs up to age 10, these results might required the model to be tweaked.  The researchers speculate that verbal growth might occur up to age 10, but that musical growth occurs between a narrower window of time.  Further research be needed to evaluate such theories.

Heller, J.J., & Athanasulis, M.B. (2002). Music and language: a learning window from birth to age ten. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 153/154(19th), 18-22.


One Response to “Is There A “Window Of Time” For The Development Of Language and Music Abilities?”


  1. Tweets that mention Is There A “Window Of Time” For The Development Of Language and Music Abilities? « parker tichko -- - November 12, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Helaine Becker, Parker Tichko. Parker Tichko said: New Blogpost: Is There A “Window Of Time” For The Development Of Language and Music Abilities? #psychology #learning […]

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