Thesis

Enhancing second language acquisition and recall with music and prosody

This paper examines evidence that music and language are so intertwined, so integral to one another that one cannot be learned without the other. Indeed, the study of music seems to enhance the acquisition of second languages because it provides phonological and metrical space cognition. Starting with the premise that language and music are ubiquitous, and that their respective grammars are implicitly known to nearly all people, researchers have parsed out the relevant topics into the major areas of cognition, memory and recall, and models of brain and functional modularity described by syntactic and semantic networks. How music and prosody influence language acquisition focuses on the following: The hierarchical grammars of music and linguistics; studies of the brain functions from neurolinguistics; language acquisition through psycholinguistics; and modern graph theory as applied to language networks. These models are examined for their predictions of growth and function. Recent interdisciplinary research in these fields has discovered correlative processing and shared resources between language and music that has implications for second language (L2) learners as a distinct class of language learners. Since the input for language, music and prosody is often under the L2 learner's control, strategic learning may improve memory and recall. First, this paper examines theories of infant language acquisition, including classic morpheme studies, prior to extending the theories to adult second language learners and use of music/language prosody. Thus, from the L2 learner's prospective, does music and language prosody improve or enhance the second language acquisition process, and what is the evidence? From neuroscience studies, is there a strong enough cognitive connection to include explicit music and prosody training? This needs evidence beyond the obvious sociolinguistic reasons, because the argument here is that music itself enhances cognitive functions. Or, is music and varieties of language prosody simply to be enjoyed as part of the cultural or social milieu, not necessary for language competence, just a frill. Using network theory to describe the syntactic bottleneck caused by incomplete or faulty knowledge of requisite morphemes, this paper extrapolates from the child language cascade to the adult L2 learner. For the adult second language learner, music and language prosody are strategic tools for acquiring these implicit rules ensuring language readiness.

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