The Music of Language

in The Music between Us

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226333281
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226333274 | DOI:
The Music of Language

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Music and language have many similarities, but they are also different, in ways that neuropsychology increasingly shows. For instance, patients with aphasia (an inability to speak) do not necessarily develop amusia (the loss of certain musical abilities) due to brain lesions, nor do those with amusia necessarily develop aphasia. This chapter focuses on the language model that has traditionally been used to summarize the universal character of music. It argues that the linguistic model obscures powers of music that are different from those of language, as well as the ways in which language relies more on “musical” characteristics than is widely assumed. The chapter also reverses the model of the language–music comparison, suggesting, along with composer and musical semiotician David Lidov, that language might justly be called a music. Finally, it looks at a number of “universal” features of musical perception that are also applicable to language, including the involvement of categorical perception in our apprehension of phonemes and temporal intervals, the typically uneven durations of syllables, and the use of Gestalt principles in grouping linguistic strings.

Keywords: music; language; David Lidov; musical perception; phonemes; temporal intervals; syllables; Gestalt principles; linguistic strings

Chapter.  11548 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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