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Séjour long


Linguistics - China

Contact details

Research topics


Music Rhythmic Priming Effect on Language Processing

The music Rhythmic Priming Effect (RPE) refers to the positive impact of rhythmically regular musical stimulation on grammar task performance. It has been reported in the languages of French, German, English and Hungarian. However, the experimental investigation is still limited to Indo-European languages and native speakers. This project will develop the research by exploring different dimensions (i.e. language typology and bilinguals). It will record behavioral measures, aiming to investigate whether the RPE can be observed across different languages, and whether RPE can be demonstrated in the second language of bilinguals.
Specifically, the project includes two parts. The first will investigate the influence of music rhythmic primes on Chinese syntactical structure processing. The second will investigate the RPE on French language in Chinese-French bilinguals.

This project will enrich our knowledge of the unique relation between music and language sensitivity, add scientifically comprehensive knowledge in terms of shared cognitive processing of rhythm and syntax and its neurological foundations, as well as temporal attention for language processing. In addition, it will evaluate the current language processing models, contributing to a comprehensive model of language processing. Furthermore, the findings will open to practical implications for the potential role of music in language education and in therapies for language dysfunctions. All this will bear on the large question that motivates research like this – to what extent do humans naturally have both language and music because of shared cultural, perceptual, cognitive, and neurological processes.

Activities / Resume


Xiaoxia Sun is an associative professor of linguistics at Nanjing Normal University, China.
She has been focusing on the cognitive and neurological bases of language and music, among other pursuits. Sun received a Ph.D in linguistics from the Northeast Normal University in 2011. She studied at Cognitive Science of the University of Arizona (2009 – 2010), and at systematic musicology of Cologne University from 2012. Between 2018 and 2020, she conducted research at Cognition Auditive et Psychoacoustique (CAP) of CRNL as a post-doc. Sun’s current interests focus on structural processing in language and music, relationship between linguistic syntactic processing and musical rhythm, and evolutionary neuroscience.


A) Monograph

  • The Non-Universality of Subject Relatives Preference. Beijing: World Press Cooperation, 2014.

B) Translations

  • Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, written by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson (1999). Beijing: World Press Cooperation, 2018. 300 pages

C) PhD Thesis

  • A Study on the Universality of Subject Relatives Preference: ERP evidence from Chinese

D) Journal Papers (First author / Corresponding author only)

  • Sun Xiaoxia, 2017. Musical capability and the second language learning research in a neuroscience context. Foreign Language Education, (6): 64-69.
  • Sun Xiaoxia, Hancock, R., Bever. T. G. et al., 2016. Processing Relative Clauses in Chinese: Evidence from Event-related Potentials. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 39(1): 92-114.
  • Sun Xiaoxia. & Seifert, U. 2014. Music Training Facilitates Language Learning. The Journal of Culture and International Languages, (3): 55-57.
  • Sun Xiaoxia, Xin Bin, & Seifert, U, 2014. Language and Music: The State of the Art. Contemporary Linguistics 16(2): 175-185.
  • Sun Xiaoxia. & Seifert, U. 2013. Where language comes from? – A comparative language evolution between language and music. The Journal of Culture and International Languages. (12): 104-107.

D) Proceedings papers and posters (First author / Corresponding author only)

  • Sun Xiaoxia & U, Seifert. 2012. Syntax of Mind – Semantic of Mind: Two Frameworks for Comparative Approaches to the Evolution of Music and Language. In C-Scott-Phillips. T & Tamariz. (eds.). The Evolution of Language (pp. 344-352). London: World Scientific. Evolang 9, Tokyo, 2012.
  • Sun, Xiaoxia & U, Seifert. 2014. The Evolutionary Relations between Music and Language: A Cross-musical Idiom Approach from the Comparative Perspective of Language and Music. The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International conference. Pp. 529-531. Evolang 10, Vienna, 2014.
  • Sun Xiaoxia, 2017. Chinese subject-relative clauses are more difficult to process than the object-relative clauses: Evidence from topicalized sentences. Journées de Linguistique sur l’Asie Orientale, Centre de Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale, Paris, 2017.
  • Sun Xiaoxia, Fiveash, A. & Tillmann, B. 2022. Music rhythmic priming effect on Chinese syntax processing. Expression, Music and Language, Hartford, U.S., Forthcoming 2022.