Does the Y-Model for Language Work for Music?

  • Oriol QuintanaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 943)


The four main modules of the classic model for the faculty of language postulated in generative linguistics—lexicon, syntax, phonology/prosody and semantics—have been hypothesized to each have a (more or less abstract) equivalent module in the faculty of music. This hypothesis suggests that it should be possible to explain the way these modules interact—represented by the inverted-Y form of the model—in a similar fashion. I propose a refinement of Katz and Pesetsky’s (2011) hypothesis by suggesting that there are a number of common properties shared by the lexical systems of music and language, and it is precisely this that explains some of their fundamental syntactic similarities. What makes the two systems different is not primitively the properties of their lexical modules, but rather the radically different nature of their respective interpretive modules—semantics in the case of language (or, technically, the conceptual-intentional system), and the Tonal-Harmonic Component (THC) in the case of music.


Language Music Syntax Computational system Semantics Harmony Inverted-Y model 



This research has been financed by a public grant from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes of the Spanish government (FPU14/04707) and forms part of subproject FFI2014-56968-C4-1-P, financed by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, and project 2017SGR-634, financed by AGAUR-Generalitat de Catalunya.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Lingüística TeòricaUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona (CLT-UAB)BarcelonaSpain

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