Music, Language and the Brain, Aniruddha D. Patel

The central role of music and language in human existence and the fact that both involve complex and meaningful sound sequences naturally invite comparison between the two domains. Yet from the standpoint of modern cognitive science, music-language relations have barely begun to be explored. This situation appears to be poised to change rapidly, as researchers from diverse fields are increasingly drawn to this interdisciplinary enterprise. The appeal of such research is easy to understand. Humans are unparalleled in their ability to make sense out of sound. In many other branches of our experience (e.g., visual perception, much), we can learn much from studying the behavior and brains of other animals because our experience is not that different from theirs. When it comes to language and music, however, our species is unique (cf. Chapter 7, on evolution). This makes it difficult to gain insight into language or music as a cognitive system by comparing humans to other organisms Yet within our own minds are two systems that perform remarkably similar Interpretive feats, converting complex acoustic sequences into perceptually discrete elements [such as words or chords) organized into hierarchical structures that convey rich meanings. This provides a special opportunity for cognitive science. Specifically, exploring both the similarities and the differences between music and language can deepen our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie our species’ uniquely powerful communicative abilities…………….

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