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The Prehistory of Language$
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Rudolf Botha and Chris Knight

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199545872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199545872.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 October 2021

Music as a communicative medium

Music as a communicative medium

(p.77) 5 Music as a communicative medium
The Prehistory of Language

Ian Cross

Ghofur Eliot Woodruff

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the idea that language and music may have co-evolved, and proposes that language and music constitute complementary components of the ‘human communicative toolkit’. Drawing on ethnomusical, cognitive, and neuroscientific evidence, it is argued that music is a communicative medium with features that are optimally adapted for the management of situations of social uncertainty. Music achieves this by presenting the characteristics of an honest signal, while underspecifying goals in a way that permits individuals to interact even while holding personal interpretations of goals and meanings that may actually be in conflict. The chapter adduces a theory of meaning in music, in which the experience of music is accounted for in specific ways by reference to principles that are said to underlie both animal communication in general, and human communicative interaction in particular. Exploring the implications of this theory for the evolution of language, it is argued that as complementary components of the ‘modern human communicative toolkit’, music and language are best thought of as having co-evolved from a precursive communicative system that embodied features of both.

Keywords:   language development, language capacity, music, co-evolution, human communicative toolkit, speech

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