Steven Mithen argues that language evolved from an antecedent he terms “Hmmmmm, [meaning it was] Holistic, manipulative, multi-modal, musical and mimetic”. Owing to certain innate and learned factors, a capacity for segmentation and cross-stream mapping in early Homo sapiens broke the continuous line of Hmmmmm, creating discrete replicated units which, with the initial support of Hmmmmm, eventually became the semantically freighted words of modern language. That which remained after what was a bifurcation of Hmmmmm arguably survived as music, existing as a sound stream segmented into discrete units, although one without the explicit and relatively fixed semantic content of language. All three types of utterance – the parent Hmmmmm, language, and music – are amenable to a memetic interpretation which applies Universal Darwinism to what are understood as language and musical memes. On the basis of Peter Carruthers’ distinction between ‘cognitivism’ and ‘communicativism’ in language, and William Calvin’s theories of cortical information encoding, a framework is hypothesized for the semantic and syntactic associations between, on the one hand, the sonic patterns of language memes (‘lexemes’) and of musical memes (‘musemes’) and, on the other hand, ‘mentalese’ conceptual structures, in Chomsky’s ‘Logical Form’ (LF).
|Number of pages||38|
|Journal||Language and Cognition|
|Early online date||6 Mar 2015|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2016|
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- Department of Music & Design Arts - Reader
- School of Arts and Humanities
- Centre for Research in New Music - Member
- Centre for Music, Culture and Identity - Member