Musicality in human vocal communication: An evolutionary perspective

Abstract

Studies show that specific vocal modulations, akin to those of infant-directed speech and perhaps music, play a role in communicating intentions and mental states during human social interaction. Based on this, we propose a model for the evolution of musicality –the capacity to process musical information– in relation to human vocal communication. We suggest that a complex social environment, with strong social bonds, promoted the appearance of musicality-related abilities. These social bonds were not limited to those between offspring and mothers or other carers, although these may have been especially influential in view of altriciality of human infants. The model can be further tested in other species by comparing levels of sociality and complexity of vocal communication. By integrating several theories, our model presents a radically different view of musicality, not limited to specifically musical scenarios, but one in which this capacity originally evolved to aid parent-infant communication and bonding, and even today plays a role, not only in music but also in infant-directed speech (IDS), as well as some adult-directed speech (ADS) contexts.

Publication
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376, 20200391
Juan David Leongómez
Juan David Leongómez
Associate Professor

My research interests include mate choice and human vocal communication, with an aspiration towards understanding musicality. I am also interested in bioacoustics and psychoacoustics, as well as statistics and  programming.

Jan Havlíček
Jan Havlíček
Professor

Professor and principal investigator of the Human Ethology research group (Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic).

S. Craig Roberts
S. Craig Roberts
Professor of Human Ethology

Professor of Human Ethology (Division of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK), and President of the International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE).

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