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The Music between UsIs Music a Universal Language?$
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Kathleen Marie Higgins

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226333281

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226333274.001.0001

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The Music of Language

The Music of Language

(p.78) Chapter 5 The Music of Language
The Music between Us
University of Chicago Press

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

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