Rhythm in Language and Music

Parallels and Differences


Address for correspondence: Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel, The Neurosciences Institute, 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive, San Diego, CA 92121. Voice: 858-626-2085; fax: 858-626-2099; apatel@nsi.edu.


Abstract: Rhythm is widely acknowledged to be an important feature of both speech and music, yet there is little empirical work comparing rhythmic organization in the two domains. One approach to the empirical comparison of rhythm in language and music is to break rhythm down into subcomponents and compare each component across domains. This approach reveals empirical evidence that rhythmic grouping is an area of overlap between language and music, but no empirical support for the long-held notion that language has periodic structure comparable to that of music. Focusing on the statistical patterning of event duration, new evidence suggests that the linguistic rhythm of a culture leaves an imprint on its musical rhythm. The latter finding suggests that one effective strategy for comparing rhythm in language and music is to determine if differences in linguistic rhythm between cultures are reflected in differences in musical rhythm.