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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantics of Natural Languages

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 15:38:45 -0400
Message-id: <4A1AF3C5.8070608@xxxxxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

Thanks for that reference:    (02)

JB> I came across something today that possibly adds an interesting
 > twist to this idea that formal is a subset of natural semantics or,
 > at least, that formal semantics uses a subset of the *mechanisms*
 > people use in speech semantics.  Researchers have found that Jazz
 > musicians, while improvising, use the same part of their brains,
 > which includes Broca's area, they use when generating speech:
 > http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/creation_on_command/
 > "The scientists argue that expert musicians create new melodies
 > by relying on the same mental muscles used to create a sentence;
 > every note is another word." So perhaps not only mathematics and
 > formal logic are based on a subset of the mechanisms of NL
 > semantics, but music may be too.    (03)

There has been a lot of psycholinguistic research on the relations
between language and music, and it's good to get neural confirmation.
One of the most interesting questions is which one is the foundation
for the other, or do they both depend on something deeper.    (04)

Everybody has anecdotal evidence that words are easier to remember
when they are set to music, and music is easier to remember when it
is accompanied by words.  And the oral poets from ancient Greece
(Homer, Hesiod, and their contemporaries) to modern Africa used
musical accompaniment -- they chanted their stories.    (05)

I recently heard a comedian remark that all good comedians also have
a considerable amount of musical talent.  The old vaudeville comedians
certainly knew both -- just think of the Marx brothers (Groucho's songs,
Harpo's harp, and Chico's piano) and Jack Benny, who was actually a
pretty good violinist.  And, of course, there's Victor Borge, who
was trained as a concert pianist.  The ability to make clever word
play seems to be related to the ability to improvise Jazz.    (06)

Following are the proceedings of a conference on the psychology
of music, including issues about its relationship to language:    (07)

    http://www.uni-graz.at/richard.parncutt/cim04/index2.htm    (08)

For a survey of an enormous range of psycholinguistic and musical
studies, I recommend the following book:    (09)

    Mithen, Steven (2006) The Singing Neanderthals: The Origin of Music,
    Language, Mind, and Body, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.    (010)

The author of this book claims that the Neanderthals had music, but
not language.  I find that claim doubtful -- I think they had both.
But in any case, he covers a lot of material that suggests that
music is more primitive than language and a prerequisite for it.    (011)

John    (012)

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