CONF: Expression, Language, and Music (ELM)

13-15 May 2020 | Lyceum Center, Hartford, CT
ECOM’s (Expression, Communication, and Origins of Meaning Research Group) new biennial conference *Expression, Language, and Music (ELM)* Conference

Conference website (including links to registration):

When Darwin turned to apply his evolutionary framework to language (in Ch. 2 of The Descent of Man) he outlined a phylogenetic scenario that posits the emergence of different aspects of language in sequential order, under the influence of different selection pressures. At a crucial stage (sometimes labeled ‘musical protolanguage’; Fitch 2010), according to Darwin, emerged vocal imitation used in singing, which served “the expression of emotions like love, jealousy, and triumph”. This stage preceded the emergence of language as we know it. Darwin’s language evolution scenario thus ties together emotional expression, ‘musical cadences’ or singing, and meaningful speech. His idea seemed to be that some of the same capacities involved in learning and producing songs –specifically, emotional expression, flexible vocal production/imitation, and structural complexity – could, with the right selection pressures, have put our ancestors on the path to propositionally structured, meaningful speech.

Expression, Language, and Music will bring together researchers from linguistics, music theory, anthropology, neurobiology, cognitive science, philosophy, and more, with the aim of integrating recent findings and insights from diverse perspectives concerning, e.g. the significance of emotional expression for both music and language, the importance of systematic structure in both music and language, and the interrelations between expressive, musical, and communicative capacities and their relevance for understanding the emergence of language (in ontogeny and phylogeny).

Invited speakers
  • Tecumseh Fitch (Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna)
  • Kathleen Higgins (Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin)
  • Ray Jackendoff (Linguistics, Tufts University)
  • Jerrold Levinson (Philosophy, University of Maryland)
  • Elizabeth Margulis (Music Cognition, Princeton University)
  • Isabelle Peretz (Psychology, University of Montreal)
  • David Poeppel (Neuroscience, NYU)
  • Ljiljana Progovac (Linguistics, Wayne State University)
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