Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Relationship between language and music/poetry
Question: I am interested in the relationship between language and music and language and poetry. In The Music of Africa, Joseph Nketia says that African societies are so conscious of the relationship between music and language that they extend its use to instrumental forms. Meaningful language texts or nonsense syllables are used as verbal ''scores'' of musical rhythms or as mnemonics for teaching and memorizing drum rhythms. There are instrumental pieces based on some kind of textual framework, as well as others that originate as songs, The linguistic factors that operate in vocal music therefore apply to some extent to text bound instrumental music as well. One can assume that irregular stress placement and additive rhythms exploited in instrumental music are developed from the treatment of speech rhythms in vocal music. As well as discussing the relationship between African music and African tonal languages, Nketia also quotes the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly as saying that because Hungarian differs in stress and natural intonation from many European languages, it follows that music composed to Hungarian words, provided it conforms to the natural pitch of the language, almost defies transposition into European languages. As natural as iambic verse is to English and to some extent even German, French and Italian, so diametrically opposed is it to the character of the Hungarian language. Apart from the specific examples quoted above, has much other work been done in this area. Is there any academic department specialising in it and can anyone suggest any more general studies, please?
Reply: Hi Richard There's a few folks working on poetry from a phonological perspective, e.g. Bruce Hayes, Paul Kiparsky are major figures in this literature. There are a number of other folks, myself included, also working in this area. As far as the connection between language and music, there's the classical Jackendoff and Lerdahl book, and the classic lectures by Leonard Bernstein on this topic. I'm intrigued by this as well, but I'm not sure how much has been done on this on the linguistic side over the years since. You mention the use of nonsense syllables in music and I've been looking at these as well. There's a tradition in English "skat", but this is of unknown origin. I've been looking at "mouth music" in Scottish Gaelic (puirt à beul). I don't know of any systematic work on these systems from the linguistic side though. mike hammond
Reply From: Mike Hammond      click here to access email
 
Date: 29-Oct-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Relationship between language and music/poetry    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (29-Oct-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions