Music and Language or Language and Music?

Some linguists believe that people sang before they spoke and other believe that speech came before singing. Either belief is fine with me.

I do believe that language influences music. I strongly believe that the rhythm of a language defines the rhythm of that culture’s music. Each language has its own rhythm. This is what makes each culture’s music sound unique.

Certainly, the environment comes into play. A culture’s physical environment influences the types of musical instruments that a culture builds.

I’m not sure if language determines how a culture tunes its instruments. For example, the Indian culture tunes their string instruments, for example, a sitar, into microtones. A microtone is a note between two notes. For example, on a piano there are the notes C and C-sharp (C#). When tuning a sitar, there may be one, two, ten, and so on notes between C and C-sharp.

There may be a relationship between language and tuning systems. I’ll need to do some research. Certainly, please share your thoughts with me.

The rhythm of a language helps me understand my students. I teach students from many countries. When a new student arrives, sometimes it is difficult for me to understand what he or she says. I listen to their accent as I would listen to music. Once I understand the rhythm, I understand them.

Music, language, tuning systems, rhythm, to me, they are fascinating. I’ve played keyboard instruments my whole life. Is melody the international language? I don’t think so. I think rhythm is the international language. I’ll talk about that in a future post.


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor ( who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
This entry was posted in education, English, English as a Second Language, environmental sounds, ESL, Mozart Effect, music, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Music and Language or Language and Music?

  1. Elisavet says:

    interesting songs.. I mean thoughts! haha but if melody or rhythm is the universal language..? I don’t know, I think a combination of the two, music is definitely a universal language, or even means of communicating feelings

    this was a good read!!

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  3. acohen843 says:


    Thank you for your comments. I am glad you enjoy my writing.

    It is certainly an open question whether music is the international language. Some of my students and friends say the melody or feeling is international, some get hung up on the words, etc. The more I listen to music, the more interested I become with rhythm.

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  5. Joe Paxton says:

    Interesting thoughts on rhythm being an international language. I believe that the use of rhythm in both music and spoken language stems from an onomatopoeic type imitation of sound patterns from physical events. This case has strong founding in communication of emotion; we can read into how a phrase is played or said in terms of pitch, speed and by how well it flows.

    Also, I don’t believe that spoken language or music (singing) came about separately as you alluded to in your opening sentences. Languages are means for communication, and both speech and music have heavily intertwined properties. I think that rather than them arriving separately, they diverged into two streams of communication from one original attempt to communicate.

    Interesting thoughts though.

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