Implication of the Human Musical Faculty for Evolution of Language

  • Nobuo Masataka


Although debate on the origin of human language has a long history that continues up to the present, there is consensus concerning the fact that the system arose by means of natural selection, presumably because more accurate communication helped early humans survive and reproduce. However, with respect to music, even the evolutionary signifi cance remains open to question. (1997) stated that music itself played no adaptive role in human evolution, suggesting it was “auditory cheesecake”, a byproduct of natural selection that just happened to “tickle the sensitive spots” of other truly adaptive functions, such as the rhythmic bodily movement of walking and running, the natural cadences of speech, and the brain’s ability to make sense of a cacophony of sounds. However, a number of researchers disagree with this argument (e.g., Christiansen and Kirby 2003; Wallin et al. 2000), arguing that music clearly had an evolutionary role, and pointing to music’s universality. Particularly from a developmental perspective, fi ndings concerning the ability of very young infants to respond strongly to music should be noted because it could serve as evidence that music is hardwired into human brains. Thus, if infants’ musical ability is the result of Darwinian natural selection, in what way did it make humans more fit?


Home Range Nonhuman Primate Minimum Convex Polygon Pitch Contour Gibbon Species 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nobuo Masataka
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityInuyama, AichiJapan

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