Monday, December 1, 2008

Perfect pitch may help babies speak



Perfect pitch may help babies speak

By Jonathan Amos

BBC – Health


Summary: This particular article discusses the concept of perfect pitch. Jonathan Amos, the author, states that it is likely that everyone is born with perfect pitch, and then loses it as they get older because there is no need for such a refined sense of hearing. Researchers typically believe that there is no reason to maintain perfect pitch, unless one plays a musical instrument or speaks a language that uses different tones. For their study, researchers played adults and 8-month old babies long sequences of musical notes. Adults typically could not tell differences in the sequences, but babies would notice. This suggests that babies use perfect pitch as a means to learning language. “The US team said they could tell this because it was well documented that babies got bored if they heard the same thing too often - their attentions strayed.” Unless you are a musician, or speaking a tonal language, there really is no need to maintain perfect pitch.


Review: This is a well written article, and the research is quite fascinating. The data is interesting, although probably only interesting to people in the music profession. Because perfect pitch is such a refined skill, it seems only natural that we lose the ability to determine pitches without reference because it is unnecessary and most likely distracting in a language such as English.


They clearly define their research methodology, but I feel it would be useful to site other literature on the topic for background information. I also thought they could have written a section on where this research would be going in the future.


Reflection: This article is useful, and relates to the idea of prosody, which is important for babies learning language. It’s an interesting concept to think that everyone is born with perfect pitch. I wonder if people are attempting to train babies and young children to have perfect pitch in today’s society. It would be useful to study babies from a young age and determine how to maintain this refined skill of perfect pitch. That would confirm their results that people are likely born with the ability to determine pitches.

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