Educational CyberPlayGround

Origin and Evolution of Music, Words, and Language.

The evolutionary function of music is language.

Music is Language AND Language is Music.

Interdisciplinary Connections between Language, Music, Evolution, and Reading

Music is Language, Language is Music: Book

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Tom Wolfe takes on linguistics
[Language acquisition] [Language and culture] [Language and languages] [Linguistics] [Noam Chomsky] [Pictorial works] [Pirahã dialect] [Pirahã Indians]
Cover article in Harper's (August, 2016): "The Origins of Speech: In the beginning was Chomsky".
And so it begins: Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.
At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard's Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.


This is how and why we develop PERFECT PITCH


Listen to Human SILBO Whistle Language
Manuel Carreiras of theand David Corina published research on Silbo in 2004 and 2005 arguing that Silbo was understood by the brain in much the same way as a spoken language. Their study of speakers of Spanish (some of whom "spoke" Silbo and some of whom did not) showed (by monitoring brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging) that while non-speakers of Silbo merely processed Silbo as whistling, speakers of Silbo processed the whistling sounds in the same linguistic centers of the brain that processed Spanish sentences.

Hear Piraha
sung speech

The Pirahã

The Pirahã habitually whittle nouns down to single syllables.

Keren Everett - "The key to learning the language is the tribe's singing, Keren said: the way that the group can drop consonants and vowels altogether and communicate purely by variations in pitch, stress, and rhythm — what linguists call “prosody.” I was reminded of an evening in the village when I had heard someone singing a clutch of haunting notes on a rising, then falling scale. The voice repeated the pattern over and over, without variation, for more than half an hour.
The Pirahã habitually whittle nouns down to single syllables. Phonemes (the sounds from which words are constructed) can feature nasal whines and sharp intakes of breath, and sounds made by popping or flapping the lips. Individual words were hard to learn, since Also confounding was the tonal nature of the language: the meanings of words depend on changes in pitch. (The words for “friend” and “enemy” differ only in the pitch of a single syllable.) Pirahã, like a few other Amazonian tongues, has male and female versions: the women use one fewer consonant than the men do. Daniel L. (Dan) Everett

I crept up to the edge of one of the Pirahã huts and saw that it was a woman, winding raw cotton onto a spool, and intoning this extraordinary series of notes that sounded like a muted horn. A toddler played at her feet. I asked Everett about this, and he said something vague about how tribe members “sing their dreams.” But when I described the scene to Keren she grew animated and explained that this is how the Pirahã teach their children to speak. The toddler was absorbing the lesson in prosody through endless repetition—an example, one might argue, of Edward Sapir's cultural theory of language acquisition at work. “This language uses prosody much more than any other language I know of,” Keren told me. “It's not the kind of thing that you can write, and capture, and go back to; you have to watch, and you have to feel it. It's like someone singing a song

Listen to Piraha sung speech - two boys singing about a day's events. You want to watch and listen and try to sing along with them.

So I started doing that, and I began noticing things that I never transcribed, and things I never picked up when I listened to a tape of them, and part of it was the performance. So at that point I said, 'Put the tape recorders and notebooks away, focus on the person, watch them.' They give a lot of things using prosody that you never would have found otherwise. This has never been documented in any language I know.” Aspects of Pirahã that had long confounded Keren became clear, she said. “I realized, Oh! That's what the subject-verb looks like, that's what the pieces of the clause and the time phrase and the object and the other phrases feel like. That was the beginning of a breakthrough for me. I won't say that I've broken it until I can creatively use the verbal structure—and I can't do it yet.” Source
Update: Keren Everett Has learned to sing.

Hear: WHALE Whistle Hear Humpback Chorus


Interspecies Language Evolution From Whistling to Speech. Other species that communicate with each other use clicks, whistles, song and gestures.

You can imagine that the clapping and hooting you hear in the audience is one of the last vestiges of gestures we still have as evolution propelled us towards a species that became a group to use speech / language.


Ancient Text Messages of the Yoruba Bata Drum - Cracking the Code.
TALKING DRUM - Yoruba speech is coded into a verbal system of vocables that can, in turn, be translated onto the bata drums. This intermediary coding serves several functions, for instance, providing an oral notation system that acts as a lingua franca which can be comprehended across geographical regions. While this coding unites bata musicians, it also establishes, as Villepastour argues, insidership and identity. Most notably, perhaps, the author highlights the Yoruba practice of using this coded system as a form of spoken communication in itself, apart from a pedagogical tool for drummers;
The bata is one of the most important and representative percussion traditions of the people in southwest Nigeria, and is now learnt and performed around the world. In Cuba, their own bata tradition derives from the Yoruba bata from Africa yet has had far more research attention than its African predecessor. Although the bata is one of the oldest known Yoruba drumming traditions, the drum and its unique language are now unfamiliar to many contemporary Yoruba people. Amanda Villepastour provides the first academic study of the bata's communication technology and the elaborate coded spoken language of bata drummers, which they refer to as 'ena bata'.
Villepastour explains how the bata drummers' speech encoding method links into universal linguistic properties, unknown to the musicians themselves. The analysis draws the direct links between what is spoken in Yoruba, how Yoruba is transformed in to the coded language (ena), how ena prescribes the drum strokes and, finally, how listeners (and which listeners) extract linguistic meaning from what is drummed. The description and analysis of this unique musical system adds substantially to what is known about bata drumming specifically, Yoruba drumming generally, speech surrogacy in music and coded systems of speaking.

When Twi is drummed, the resulting drum language is called ayan.

The term '2nd line march,' originates in the New Orleans African American/creole traditional funeral processions. The first line in the procession is the family of the deceased, and the band marches along in the second line.

The Etymology of the word JAZZ is The 2nd Line March beat, as it relates to timing in Irish tradition starts with the origin of jazz mostly in the New Orleans and the Mississippi River delta. Western classical music out of Europe usually plays out in simple time (a single time signature and rhythm) jazz time is rooted in an import from Africa. A Simultaneous juxtaposition and interaction of two different rhythms, simultaneously. In the case of the 2nd line march beat, the simultaneous playing of 4/4 and 3 against 2. It's ^two times, at the same time.^
Wynton Marsalis explains "We hear music in one time. But the Africans, though, they hear music in TWO times! They play in two, AND they play in three… at the same time." start listening around 4:00 minutes in then after 7:20, he says: "More difficult, is when we add the four to it." And he has his buddy clap the same 6/8 rhythm, and Marsalis claps the 4 over the top. "THAT is jig timing!!"

RHYTHM and ABSOLUTE TIME - WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?The Science of Why Using Music to Teach Children Works.

The Gesture - Before words you will use your hands. Baby Sign Language. The movement of your hand. The sound. Even the way we represent animals is cultural.

The value of play is found in the work of Speech, Clapping, jumping, and circle game rhymes which use the tactile pathways and help wire the brain for higher thinking and reading skills.

National Children's Folksong Repository - the value of children's oral culture - clapping hands and speech.

Structure exposes the evolutionary roots of language * 01 October 2005

Scientists Report Finding a Gene for Speech

How do babies begin to acquire language?
Rhythmic patterns underlie the human language. How children learn the meanings of words. Grammer is hard wired. Letters are shaped that way for a reason. Rhythm and pitch give the meaning.

By 6 months of age
infants develop a map in the auditory cortex of the phonetic sounds in the native language their mother or caretaker speaks.

Depending on the language they either will or will not develop perfect pitch.

How do babies begin to acquire language? "
Much of the information that's transmitted during speech is transmitted by pitch and timing," two of the crucial elements of music. Rhythmic patterns underlie the human language.

Toddlers Understand Complex Grammar
Children are able to comprehend complex grammar at a younger age. Infants were able to learn two new words in five minutes with just five presentations for each word and object, said study leader Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University. Importantly, the babies paired a new word to the object they liked best, regardless of what object the speaker referred to. Ten-month-olds simply 'glue' a label onto the most interesting object they see. "The baby naturally assumes that the word you're speaking goes with the object that they think is interesting, not the object that you show an interest in," Hirsh-Pasek said. Around 18 months, children learn to use the speaker's interest - such as where the eyes gaze - as a guide to learning, the researchers say.

Still, Hirsh-Pasek thinks there is a lesson for parents and educators of children at all ages: "Sometimes we fail to take notice of what our learners are doing and what they're interested in," she said. "We all learn best when things are meaningful."

The result is not too surprising, Hirsh-Pasek said in a telephone interview. She says interest drives learning for older children, too, and even adults.

LANGUAGE structure may reveal more about human origins than vocabulary.
The team first looked at a set of 16 Austronesian languages whose histories were already well known via comparative vocabulary methods. The structural method produced the same historical connections, indicating that the technique was reliable.
They then analysed a set of 15 Papuan languages that had previously show no historical connections, and discovered structural similarities (Science, vol 309, p 2072). This suggests the new technique can reach further back than 10,000 years, says Russell Gray, an expert in language evolution at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in an article accompanying the paper.

WHY should links exist between music and language?
Some researchers think that the two might have a common evolutionary origin. Steven Brown, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Huddinge, Sweden, proposes that our ancestors developed a system of communication that he calls musilanguage, in which meaning was conveyed not so much by the shapes of sounds as by their pitch. A kind of phrasing akin to the intonation of modern speech could have implied emotive nuances. In support, Brown points out that some animals make use of pitch to communicate, for example in birdsong, and in the alarm calls of the African vervet monkey. Brown argues that some remnant of this tone-based musilanguage exists in tonal languages such as the various forms of Chinese, and in the sing-song of Japanese and Scandinavian languages. Brown is in good company. Darwin, in his 1871 book The Descent of Man, speculated that language might have developed from an essentially musical means of communication.

Origin of Words, Language Evolution

Integrate Literacy, Music and Technology into the Classroom.

Linguistic Ideology:

Chomsky: The capacity to generate unlimited meaning by placing one thought inside another is the crux of Chomsky's theory—what he calls, quoting the early-nineteenth-century German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, “the infinite use of finite means.”


Daniel L. (Dan) Everett "immediacy-of-experience principle" a living-in-the-present ethos so powerful that it has affected every aspect of the peoples lives. Committed to an existence in which only observable experience is real, the Pirah do not think, or speak, in abstractionsand thus do not use color terms, quantifiers, numbers, or myths.


B. F. Skinner, children learn words and grammar by being praised for correct usage, much as lab animals learn to push a lever that supplies them with food. In 1959, in a demolishing review of Skinner's book “Verbal Behavior,” Chomsky wrote that the ability of children to create grammatical sentences that they have never heard before proves that learning to speak does not depend on imitation, instruction, or rewards. As he put it in his book “Reflections on Language” (1975), “To come to know a human language would be an extraordinary intellectual achievement for a creature not specifically designed to accomplish this task.”
Chomsky hypothesized that a specific faculty for language is encoded in the human brain at birth. He described it as a “language organ,” which is equipped with an immutable set of rules—a universal grammar—that is shared by all languages, regardless of how different they appear to be. The language organ, Chomsky said, cannot be dissected in the way that a liver or a heart can, but it can be described through detailed analyses of the abstract structures underlying language. “By studying the properties of natural languages, their structure, organization, and use,” Chomsky wrote, “we may hope to gain some understanding of the specific characteristics of human intelligence. We may hope to learn something about human nature.”Everett conceived his Ph.D. dissertation at UNICAMP as a strict Chomskyan analysis of Pirahã. Dividing his time between São Paulo and the Pirahã village, where he collected data, Everett completed his thesis in 1983. Written in Portuguese and later published as a book in Brazil, “The Pirahã Language and the Theory of Syntax” was a highly technical discussion replete with Chomskyan tree diagrams. However, Everett says that he was aware that Pirahã contained many linguistic anomalies that he could not fit into Chomsky's paradigm. “I knew I was leaving out a lot of stuff,” Everett told me. “But these gaps were unexplainable to me.”
In 1988, Everett was hired by the University of Pittsburgh. By then, Chomsky's system of rules had reached a state of complexity that even Chomsky found too baroque, and he had begun to formulate a simpler model for the principles underlying all languages. In his 1921 book, “Language,” Sapir stated that language is an acquired skill, which “varies as all creative effort varies—not as consciously, perhaps, but nonetheless as truly as do the religions, the beliefs, the customs, and the arts of different peoples.”Chomsky, however, believed that culture played little role in the study of language, and that going to far-flung places to record the arcane babel of near-extinct tongues was a pointless exercise. Chomsky's view had prevailed. Everett began to wonder if this was an entirely good thing.
“When I went back and read the stuff Sapir wrote in the twenties, I just realized, hey, this really is a tradition that we lost,” Everett said. “People believe they've actually studied a language when they have given it a Chomskyan formalism. And you may have given us absolutely no insight whatsoever into that language as a separate language.”
Everett began to question the first principle of Chomskyan linguistics: that infants could not learn language if the principles of grammar had not been pre-installed in the brain. Babies are bathed in language from the moment they acquire the capacity to hear in the womb, Everett reasoned, and parents and caregivers expend great energy teaching children how to say words and assemble them into sentences—a process that lasts years. Was it really true that language, as Chomsky asserted, simply “grows like any other body organ”? Everett did not deny the existence of a biological endowment for language — humans couldn't talk if they did not possess the requisite neurological architecture to do so. But, convinced that culture plays a far greater role than Chomsky's theory accounted for, he decided that he needed to “take a radical reëxamination of my whole approach to the problem.”“Free from Chomskyan constraints, I was able to imagine new relationships between grammar and culture.” There is a controversial hypothesis advanced early in the last century by Benjamin Lee Whorf, a student of Sapir's. Whorf argued that the words in our vocabulary determine how we think. Since the Pirahã do not have words for numbers above two, Gordon wrote, they have a limited ability to work with quantities greater than that. “It's language affecting thought,” Gordon told me. His paper, “Numerical Cognition Without Words: Evidence from Amazonia,” was enthusiastically taken up by a coterie of “neo-Whorfian” linguists around the world.
Michael Tomasello, the director of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, endorsed Everett's conclusions that culture can shape core grammar. Because the Pirahã “talk about different things [than we do], different things get grammaticalized,” he wrote, adding that “universal grammar was a good try, and it really was not so implausible at the time it was proposed, but since then we have learned a lot about many different languages, and they simply do not fit one universal cookie cutter.”


Expert Says He Discerns 'Hard-Wired' Grammar Rules
In 1981 the linguist Noam Chomsky, who had already proposed that language was not learned but innate, made an even bolder claim.
The grammars of all languages, he said, can be described by a set of universal rules or principles, and the differences among those grammars are due to a finite set of options that are also innate.
If grammar were bread, then flour and liquid would be the universal rules; the options -- parameters, Dr. Chomsky called them -- would be things like yeast, eggs, sugar and jalapenos, any of which yield a substantially different product when added to the universals. The theory would explain why grammars vary only within a narrow range, despite the tremendous number and diversity of languages.
While most linguists would now agree that language is innate, Dr. Chomsky's ideas about principles and parameters have remained bitterly controversial.
Even his supporters could not claim to have tested his theory with the really tough cases, the languages considered most different from those the linguists typically know well.
But in a new book, Dr. Mark C. Baker, a linguist at Rutgers University whose dissertation was supervised by Dr. Chomsky, says he has discerned the parameters for a remarkably diverse set of languages, especially
American-Indian and African tongues.
In the book, "The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar" (Basic Books, 2001), Dr. Baker sets forth a hierarchy of parameters that sorts them according to their power to affect and potentially nullify one another.
Just as the periodic table of elements illustrates the discrete units of the physical world, Dr. Baker's hierarchy charts the finite set of discrete factors that create differences in grammars.
That these parameters can be organized in a logical and systematic way, Dr. Baker says, suggests that there may be some deeper theory underlying them, and that the hierarchy may even guide language acquisition in children.
The hierarchy is not the same as a family tree, which illustrates the historical relations among languages -- for example, Italian, French, Spanish and their mother tongue, Latin. Nor does it have anything to do with the way words vary from language to language. Instead, Dr. Baker analyzes grammar -- the set of principles that describe the order in which words and phrases are strung together, tenses added and questions formed. Dr. Baker, like Dr. Chomsky, believes these instructions are hard-wired into humans' brains.
His most spectacular discovery is that the grammars of English and Mohawk, which appear radically different, are distinguished by just a single powerful parameter whose position at the top of the hierarchy creates an enormous effect.
Mohawk is a polysynthetic language: its verbs may be long and complicated, made up of many different parts. It can express in one word what English must express in many words. For example, "Washakotya'tawitsherahetkvhta'se' " means, " He made the thing that one puts on one's body ugly for her" -- meaning, he uglified her dress.
In that statement, "hetkv" is the root of the verb "to be ugly." Many of the other bits are prefixes that specify the pronouns of the subject and object. Every verb includes "each of the main participants in the event described by the verb," Dr. Baker writes. In all, Mohawk has 58 prefixes, one for each possible combination of subject, object and indirect object.
Dr. Baker says the polysynthesis parameter is the most fundamental difference that languages can have, and it cleaves off Mohawk and a few other languages -- for example, Mayali, spoken in northern Australia -- from all others. That two such far-flung languages operate in the same way is more evidence for the idea that languages do not simply evolve in a gradual or unconstrained fashion, Dr. Baker says.
At the next junction in the hierarchy, two parameters are at work: "optional polysynthesis" (in which polysynthetic prefixes are possible, but not required) and "head directionality," which dictates whether modifiers and other new words are added before or after existing phrases. In English, new words are at the front. For example, to make a prepositional phrase "with her sister," the preposition goes before the noun. In Lakota, a Sioux language, the reverse is true. The English sentence "I will put the book on the table" reads like this in Lakota: "I table the on book the put will."
Japanese, Turkish and Greenlandic are other languages that opt for new words at the end of phrases, while Khmer and Welsh have the same setting as English.
In all, Dr. Baker and others have identified about 14 parameters, and he believes that there may be 16 more.
Dr. Baker's work is by no means universally accepted. Dr. Robert Van Valin, a professor of linguistics at the State University of New York at Buffalo, says the findings rest on a questionable assumption: that there is a universal grammar.
"What they're doing in that whole program is taking English-like structures and putting the words or parts of words of other languages in those structures and then discovering that they're just like English," he said.
Dr. Karin E. Michelson, an associate professor of linguistics at SUNY Buffalo, who also disagrees with the Chomskyan approach, said after reviewing Dr. Baker's Mohawk work that some of the sentences he selected seemed artificial.
Dr. Baker acknowledged that some of the longer words in his study were "carefully engineered," but he said the parameter still held up using more common examples of Mohawk. He said using only examples from real discourse restricted the kind of analysis that linguists could do.
"It would be like constraining a physicist to learn about gravity without ever building a vacuum tube," Dr. Baker said.
Other linguists, however, say they are excited by Dr. Baker's work. "He's a very influential linguist, and my guess is that this will provide insights and will spawn research for the next few years," said Dr. Stephen Crain, a professor of linguistics at the University of Maryland.
If Dr. Baker's theory is correct, a further question is how the parameters of grammar are set as a child learns language. Does a child in an English-speaking environment start at the top of the hierarchy, somehow
grasp that polysynthesis is not at work, and then move on to the next level in the hierarchy?
Dr. Baker also wonders why, if the brain is hard-wired for grammar, it leaves the parameter settings unspecified. Why aren't they hard-wired, too?
Humans are assumed to have language in the first place because it allows them to communicate useful information to others. But perhaps, Dr. Baker speculates, language is also a tool of cryptography -- a way of concealing information from competitors. In that case, he went on, "the parameters would be the scrambling procedures."