Some parallels between language and music from a cognitive and evolutionary perspective
Fenk-Oczlon, G. & Fenk, A. (2009). Some parallels between language and music from a cognitive and evolutionary perspective. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2009-2010, 201-226.
Parallels between language and music are considered as a useful basis for examining possible evolutionary pathways of these achievements. Such parallels become apparent if we compare clauses and syllables in language with phrases and notes in music: Clauses as well as musical phrases typically span about 2 sec and about 5 to 10 pulses, i.e., syllables or notes. The n of syllables per clause or intonation unit also can be used as a measure of tempo across languages and thus also as a means for a better understanding of typological co-variations in the rhythm of speech and music. Further correspondences were found between the size of the sound-relevant inventories, i.e., vowels and musical intervals: a minimum of roughly 3 and a maximum of roughly 12 elements as well as a frequency peak at 5 elements. A link between vowels and musical intervals is also indicated by our findings that in Alpine yodellers the vowels are highly correlated to melodic direction according to their F2 ordering. These parallels are discussed from an evolutionary perspective that either sees music as a precursor of language or both language and music as descendents of a common, half-musical precursor (Jespersen, 1895; Brown, 2000). A rather simple explanation of the parallels is reported: If singing in a broader sense of the word is the most original form of music, then the functionality of any mechanism involved in the programming and the online-control of intonation units will be reflected in language as well as in music.