Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 374–381 | Cite as

Making psycholinguistics musical: Self-paced reading time evidence for shared processing of linguistic and musical syntax

  • L. Robert Slevc
  • Jason C. Rosenberg
  • Aniruddh D. Patel
Brief Reports


Linguistic processing, especially syntactic processing, is often considered a hallmark of human cognition; thus, the domain specificity or domain generality of syntactic processing has attracted considerable debate. The present experiments address this issue by simultaneously manipulating syntactic processing demands in language and music. Participants performed self-paced reading of garden path sentences, in which structurally unexpected words cause temporary syntactic processing difficulty. A musical chord accompanied each sentence segment, with the resulting sequence forming a coherent chord progression. When structurally unexpected words were paired with harmonically unexpected chords, participants showed substantially enhanced garden path effects. No such interaction was observed when the critical words violated semantic expectancy or when the critical chords violated timbral expectancy. These results support a prediction of the shared syntactic integration resource hypothesis (Patel, 2003), which suggests that music and language draw on a common pool of limited processing resources for integrating incoming elements into syntactic structures. Notations of the stimuli from this study may be downloaded from


Critical Word Musical Training Syntactic Processing Garden Path Pitch Class 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Supplementary material (681 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 340 KB.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Robert Slevc
    • 1
  • Jason C. Rosenberg
    • 2
  • Aniruddh D. Patel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology—MS 25Rice UniversityHouston
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLa Jolla
  3. 3.Neurosciences InstituteLa Jolla

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