Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Hispanic Studies

Collaborative Specialization

Migration and Ethnic Relations


Dr. Yasaman Rafat

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Laura Spinu


The City University of New York



This study investigates the effects of language background (monolingual/bilingual and early/late bilingual exposure), knowledge of a tonal language and music experience on auditory discrimination by employing tone and vowel discrimination tasks. A total number of 8,769 observations were analyzed using logistic regression to answer the following questions: (1) Do vowel and tone discrimination abilities correlate with language background in diverse groups of speakers such as monolinguals and bilinguals of different types (early/late bilinguals)? (2) Does musical training affect tone and vowel discrimination? (3) Does knowledge of tonal language affect tone discrimination? The findings suggest that with regard to vowel discrimination, the only effective variable is early bilingual exposure. In the case of tone discrimination, early bilingual exposure, knowledge of a tonal language and music experience all have positive effects, while bilingualism (independent of early or late bilingual exposure) is associated with less accurate performance. The results suggest the positive impact of early bilingual exposure, knowledge of a tonal language and music experience on enhancing auditory discrimination and auditory sensory memory. Through its focus on the effects of language and music experience on auditory discrimination, this study contributes to the fields of linguistics and psycholinguistics.

Summary for Lay Audience

In this MA thesis, I study bilinguals and people with music experience in order to see how linguistic and musical experience affects one’s ability in discriminating the vowels and tones in a pair. Since nowadays and especially in modern and multicultural societies the number of bilinguals and musicians is increasing, more research has been conducted in this field. Previous literature reviews indicated the enhancement of bilinguals and musicians in auditory perception, working memory, control attention and inhibition. The primary focus of this study is auditory discrimination, in particular, vowel and tone discrimination, nevertheless, I have also associated the findings with the sensorimotor system, in particular, auditory sensory memory. The findings shed light on auditory discrimination in people with diverse linguistic and musical backgrounds. Auditory discrimination refers to the ability and capacity to distinguish sounds and phones in speech, even when the phonetic characteristics of the sounds are very similar (Wepman, 1960; Weiner, 1967; Kuczynski & Kolakowsky, 2011). Moreover, this study briefly addresses the literature gap between the connection between auditory sensory memory and phonetic and phonological learning. The findings of this study help us to gain a better understanding of speech perception and auditory discrimination in various circumstances, and this knowledge could be used to inform pedagogical strategies.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.