On musilanguage/"Hmmmmm" as an evolutionary precursor to language

Botha R. (2009)


It has been contended that modern language and music are similar in ways from which inferences can be drawn about their origin and evolution. Specifically, it has been inferred that language and music had a common precursor - referred to by Steven Brown as "musilanguage" and by Steven Mithen as "Hmmmmm". The present article examines in some depth Brown's musilanguage model and Mithen's "Hmmmmm" theory as these apply to the origin and evolution of language. It does so from the perspectives of the various ways in which (i) the putative similarities between language and music are construed, (ii) some differences between language and music are accounted for, (iii) the nature of the shared precursor of language and music is portrayed, (iv) the evolution of language out of that precursor is accounted for, and (v) some core inferences are drawn. The article shows that, considered from these perspectives, the musilanguage model and "Hmmmmm" theory cannot be accepted in their respective current articulations. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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