A Grammatical Parallel between Music and Language

  • Ray Jackendoff
  • Fred Lerdahl


For a number of years we have been developing a formal theory of tonal music, based on the goals and methodology of generative linguistics. Without any intention on our part, one aspect of our theory has proved to be closely analogous to some recent developments in phonological theory. In this paper we will describe the parallelism.


Chapter Versus Preference Rule Prosodic Structure Tonal Music Generative Linguistic 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Babbitt, M., 1972, Contemporary music composition and music theory as contemporary intellectual history, in: “Perspectives in Musicology,” B. S. Brook, et al, eds., Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, J., and Becker, A., 1979, A grammar of the musical genre SREPEGAN, J. Mus/Theory, 23(1):Google Scholar
  3. Bernstein, L., 1976, “The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma.Google Scholar
  4. Chomsky, N., 1965, “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax,” MIT Press, Cambridge, Ma.Google Scholar
  5. Chomsky, N., 1972, “Language and Mind,” Harcourt Brace, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Chomsky, N., 1975, “Reflections on Language,” Pantheon, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Chomsky, N., and Halle, M., 1968, “The Sound Pattern of English,” Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Chomsky, N., and Miller, G., 1963, Introduction to the formal analysis of natural languages, in: “Handbook of Mathematical Psychology,” Vol. II., Luce, Bush, and Galanter, eds., Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Cooper, G., and Meyer, L., 1960, “The Rhythmic Structure of Music,” University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  10. Dowling, W.J., 1978, Scale and contour: two components of a theory of memory for melodies. Psych. Rev., 85(4):341–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Halle, M., and Keyser, S.J., 1971, “English Stress,” Harper Row, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Jackendoff, R., 1977, Review of Bernstein, “The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard,” Language, 33(4):883–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jackendoff, R., and Lerdahl, F., in press. Generative music theory and its relation to psychology.Google Scholar
  14. Kahn, D., 1976, “Syllable-based generalizations in English Phonology,” Ph.D diss., MIT, dist. by the Ind. Univ. Linguistics Club.Google Scholar
  15. Kiparsky, P., 1977, The rhythmic structure of English verse, Ling. Inquiry, 8(2):189–248.Google Scholar
  16. Kiparsky, P., 1979, Metrical structure assignment is cyclic, Ling. Inquiry,Google Scholar
  17. Lasher, M., 1978, “A Study in the Cognitive Representation of Human Motion,” Unpubl Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Lerdahl, F., and Jackendoff, R., 1977, Toward a formal theory of tonal music, J. Mus. Theory, 21(1):111–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lerdahl, F., and Jackendoff, R., 1981, On the theory of grouping and meter. Music. Quart., LXVII.4.Google Scholar
  20. Lerdahl, F., and Jackendoff, R., in press, “A Generative Theory of Tonal Music,” MIT Press, Cambridge Ma.Google Scholar
  21. Liberman, M., 1973, “The Intonational System of English,” Ph.D. diss.,MIT, dist. by the Ind. Univ. Linguistics Club.Google Scholar
  22. Liberman, M., and Prince, A., 1977, On stress and linguistic rhythm. Ling. Inquiry 8(2):249–336.Google Scholar
  23. Safir, K., ed., 1979, “MIT Working Papers in Linguistics,” Vol. 1. MIT Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  24. Schenker, H., 1935, “Der freie Satz,” Universal Edition, Vienna.Google Scholar
  25. Selkirk, E., 1978, “On Prosodie Structure and its Relation to Syntactic Structure,” Unpubl. mimeo, Univ. of Masachusetts Dept. of Linguistics, Amherst, Ma.Google Scholar
  26. Selkirk, E., 1980, The role of prosodie categories in English word stress. Ling. Inquiry 11(3).Google Scholar
  27. Sundberg, J., and Lindblom, B., 1976, Generative theories in language and music description. Cognition, 4:99–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vergnaud, J.R., and Halle, M., 1979, “Metrical Structures in Phonology — a Fragment of a Draft,” Unpub. mimeo, MIT.Google Scholar
  29. Werner, O., and Topper, M.D., 1976, On the theoretical unity of ethno science, lexicography and ethnoscience ethnographies, in: “Georgetown University Round Table of Languages and Linguistics 1976,” C. Rameh, ed., Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  30. Wertheimer, M., 1923, Laws of organization in perceptual forms, in: “A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology 1938”, W.D. Ellis, ed., Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ray Jackendoff
    • 1
  • Fred Lerdahl
    • 2
  1. 1.Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  2. 2.Department of MusicColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations