This study investigated the categorization of Mandarin lexical tones and music melodic tones by listeners differing in linguistic and musical experience (English musicians, English non-musicians, and Mandarin non-musicians). Linguistic tonal continua were created from the Mandarin rising to level, and falling to level tones. Melodic continua were created by varying the note D under the context of C and E. The tasks involved tone discrimination and identification. Results revealed that musical training facilitated Mandarin tone categorization, with English musicians' tone identification approximating native Mandarin patterns, being more categorical than English non-musicians'. However, English musicians showed higher discrimination accuracy than Mandarin listeners but not English non-musicians. This suggests that musical experience was not advantageous in discriminating linguistic tonal variations, which requires listeners to ignore subtle physical differences in order to make categorical judgments. Similarly, Mandarin tone experience affected melodic tone identification, with Mandarin non-musicians approximating English musicians, showing more categorical patterns than English non-musicians. In contrast, Mandarin non-musicians' melodic discrimination was the poorest among the three groups, indicating that their experience with linguistic tone categorization may have decreased their sensitivity to fine-grained pitch variations. These results demonstrate bi-directional transfer of pitch proficiency between speech and music as a function of experience.

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