Adult non-native speech perception is subject to influence from multiple factors, including linguistic and extralinguistic experience such as musical training. The present research examines how linguistic and musical factors influence non-native word identification and lexical tone perception. Groups of native tone language (Thai) and non-tone language listeners (English), each subdivided into musician and non-musician groups, engaged in Cantonese tone word training. Participants learned to identify words minimally distinguished by five Cantonese tones during training, also completing musical aptitude and phonemic tone identification tasks. First, the findings suggest that either musical experience or a tone language background leads to significantly better non-native word learning proficiency, as compared to those with neither musical training nor tone language experience. Moreover, the combination of tone language and musical experience did not provide an additional advantage for Thai musicians above and beyond either experience alone. Musicianship was found to be more advantageous than a tone language background for tone identification. Finally, tone identification and musical aptitude scores were significantly correlated with word learning success for English but not Thai listeners. These findings point to a dynamic influence of musical and linguistic experience, both at the tone dentification level and at the word learning stage.

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