Musical pitch in nonsense syllables - correlations with the vowel system and evolutionary perspectives
In a first step we present correspondences between the inventories of vowel systems and musical scales across cultures. These correspondences concern an upper limit of roughly 12 elements, a lower limit of 2-3 elements and the 5-vowel systems and pentatonic scales as the most frequent patterns. Since vowels play a decisive role in generating the sound or the sonority of syllables that in turn are basic units of both speech and singing, these parallels are considered as a possible link between language and music. Furthermore we found correspondences between vowel pitch and musical pitch in Alpine yodellers whose text entirely consisted of nonsense syllables: A succession of the vowels [i] and [o] in meaningless syllables was most often accompanied by a succession of high and low pitch in melody. In other Austrian folksongs containing only several passages of nonsense syllables, the present study shows a similar correlation, i.e. a coincidence of the vowel [i] with the highest pitch in melody. These coincidences between the vowel system and musical intervals shall be discussed in regard of a possible evolution of music and speech out of a half-musical precursor. ...
ConferenceESCOM 2009 : 7th Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
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- ESCOM 2009 
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