Domain Specific but Structurally Shared: Exploring the Syntactic Processing of Music and Language in the Brain

Sarah Ciriegio, The College of Wooster


The shared syntactic integration resource hypothesis (SSIRH) was investigated in musicians and nonmusicians by using syntactic variations of music and language in sung sentences. A total of 30 musicians and 30 nonmusicians listened to a total of 60 sung sentences and then were asked a yes/no comprehension question after listening to each sentence. Reaction times and comprehension accuracies were recorded to measure the processing difficulty of the conditions. The varying linguistic complexity consisted of subject-extracted and object-extracted sentences and the musical complexity consisted of in-key and out-of-key melodies. Results of the study showed that subject-extracted and out-of-key sentences were the most difficult to process but no significant interaction effect was found. These findings show tentative evidence for the SSIRH, in that processing demands on the potential shared resources did occur when listening to the difficult syntactic variations.