Language and Music

  • BU Course Number: CAS LX120
  • Prerequisites: None
  • BU HUB: Allows students to earn one Hub unit in Aesthetic Exploration, Scientific Inquiry I, and Research and Information Literacy.
  • Offered at the undergraduate level only
  • This course involves live musical performances.

Course Description. [Sample Syllabus] Wherever you find people, music and language follow. Is the co-occurrence of music and language in human societies just a coincidence, or is it inevitable? This course explores the relationship between these two dimensions of the human experience, addressing several fundamental and interrelated questions. Why are human beings musical? Why are human beings linguistic? Why are music and language among the few universals of human cultures? Is your brain wired for sound? Is your brain wired for language and music? How does our brain influence how we learn language and experience music? Do music and language make us unique in the animal world? Does music have to be heard? Does music have a grammar? We will address these questions by defining what language and music are, exploring their structural similarities and differences, and surveying the global diversity in musical and linguistic expression. We will also consider a number of approaches to the above questions, including ‘musical proto-language’ (i.e., the idea that language and music share an evolutionary history in the human species) and studies of neural and cognitive impairments (e.g., selective deafness, amusia, aphasia) that shed light on the modularity and connection between musical and linguistic capacities.