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Comparisons and Contrasts between Music and Language


Comparisonsand Contrasts between Music and Language

Musicand Language

Comparisonsand contrasts between music and language

Thecomparison between language and music processing areoften studiedfrom the cognitiveand evolutionary viewpoint of their development. According toRebuschat, 2012, music and language tend to have distinctsimilarities that in a way make them look similar. However, thesimilarities between them should not make us assume or convinceourselves that they are similar than they are. Music and languagecannot be understoodto be single entities. The two, need to be decomposed into theirdistinct component operations or in a way into their differentlevels of processing. Inessence,music and language are two broad fields,and their similarity cannot be just assumed therefore, people shouldstudy them in detail and their components before arriving at anaccurateconclusion.

First,there are several ways in which language and music can be said to berelated to each other, enough to conclude that the two phenomena ofthe human body and mindconnect to each other.One common thing between music and language is that in both theircontent can be expressed in an encoded form. After they have beenputin an encoded form, they can be performed or spoken by a differentindividual who isnot the creators of the encryptedcontent.

Accordingto Dorrell, (2015) in music and language, items and utterances thatrepresent them can be presented on a piece of paper using symbolicnotations. The symbolic notations help to derive meaning. Thesymbolic notations are the main way of representing musical items inthe case of music and language utterances in any form of linguisticthat a person wants to communicate.

Bothmusic and language are as a result of discrete nature of componentsthat form them. Forinstance,music is as a result of notes with pitch values obtained from a givenset of finite values. On the other hand, language isformedfrom words constructedfrom different sequences of phonemes derivedfrom alimitedset containing consonants and vowels (Jackendoff, 2008). Therefore,puttingthis factor into consideration, music and language are similar.

Onthe contrary, language and music are totally different consideringthe following. Onefundamentaldifference that arises between language and music is related toecological function in the human way of life. The language conveysthought while music focuses on the emotion. Language can be used topass various messages about objects, people, actions or places. Itcan also be used to communicate information about the past, futureabout visible things and invisible things. The “what” is not thecase in the message conveyed.Also,linguistic utterances can be used to offer information about actionsor events. On the other hand, music cannot satisfy any of thesefunctions. Music involves one person directing music at anotherindividual. Lullabies convey the “effect”feeling which is conveying a sense of soothing. Love songs are usedto expresspassion and affectionto another person. Songs sungwhen people are working, they are aimed at carryingrhythmof work (Huron, 2006). Thus it’s evident that the function of musicis to enhance mood. Inthis case,there is no obviouscomparable or subliminal use of either spoken or written language.

Accordingto Aiello, (1994) another fundamentaldifference between language and music is the distinction that existsbetween propositional and the use of activecontent. In this case, music cannot beassigneda proposition role in its day to day usage. However,it is apparentthat language can be used effectively,or put on what can betermedas actualuse. For instance,the use of words such as “I hate you” and “I love you” canboth be used to convey compellingcontent but not as good as when music is used to express.

Anotherdifference is, beyond the different elements of the sound systems,music and language diverge by a great extent. Language or linguisticutterances areformedfrom words and components of syntax. On the contrary, music piecesarecreatedfrom their distincttones and other formula patterns and structures such as rhythms(Patel &amp Daniele, 2003).

Musicin its nature it bears a lot of repetition,unlike language. In music,some parts of a song can be repeated several times to bring aboutrestatement and improve on memorability of a piece of music. However,in language nobody spends their time going back to their old favoritesentences. Also,both the composition and performance of music is a competitiveprocess. Most of the music we happen to listen to on a daily basisarecomposedbya limited and unique people who are keen onevery composition and performance they make. On the contrary, thelanguage we listen to is writtenand performed by ordinary individuals that we happen to interact withevery time.

Inconclusion, language and music share common characteristics thatcannot beoverlooked,namely regardingtheir metrical structure and brain usage such as their content can beencoded and presented by a different person other than the creatorand the relationship between the discrete components that form them.On the other hand, language and music differ substantially regardingtheir musicalstructure, use of pitch andterms oftheir formation and functions of their various hierarchicalstructures.


Rebuschat,P. (2012).&nbspLanguageand music as cognitive systems.Oxford University Press.

Dorrell,P. (2015, June 21). TheDifferences Between Music and Language.Retrieved November 27, 2016, from What is Music:http://whatismusic.info/blog/TheDifferencesBetweenMusicAndLanguage.html

Jackendoff,R. (2008). Parallels and Non-Parallels between Language and Music.TuftsParallels and No parallels,195-204.

Aiello,R (1994). Musicand Language:Parallels and contrasts. In R. Aiello (Ed.) Musical

Perceptions,(pp. 40-63). New York: Oxford University Press.&nbspPatel,A. &amp Daniele, J (2003). Anempirical comparison of rhythm in language and music.

Cognition,87, B35-B45Huron,D. (2006). SweetAnticipation:Music and the Psychology of Expectation. Cambridge,

MA:MIT Press.