Pitch units in music and speech prosody

Pauline Larrouy-Maestri, David Poeppel, Peter Q. Pfordresher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Music and language processing have been repeatedly compared but similarities and differences between domains are challenging to quantify. This chapter takes a step back and focuses specifically on the role of fine-grained changes in pitch, which play a role in both domains but are not widely studied. In addition to describing the units, we provide empirical evidence for the specific role of small units in music: scoops, which are small dynamic pitch change at the start or end of sung notes within a melody. We report results from a new experiment that builds on a recent study that addressed two distinct processes for the evaluation of pitch accuracy (Larrouy-Maestri & Pfordresher, 2018). The present study compared accuracy ratings to a more ecologically valid listening task: preference judgments. By replicating and extending previous findings, we describe the processing of small units in music perception and propose research directions to further investigate such units in speech perception, and ultimately gain the necessary insight to make meaningful cross-domain comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHow Language Speaks to Music
Subtitle of host publicationProsody from a Cross-domain Perspective
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783110770186
ISBN (Print)9783110770100
StatePublished - Sep 6 2022


  • Fundamental frequency
  • Note
  • Perception
  • Preference
  • Scoop

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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