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Re: Why is high high?
I have heard of many theories to do with
this convention of 'low' and 'high' relating to
I would like to suggest it is due to the simple phenomena
that in order to sing a high note one tends to lift ones head
stretching the throat. Again, to sing a low note, one tends to drop
the head and chin.
Here is a biological basis for the high/low association for pitch.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Pawel Kusmierek [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 1998 10:11 AM
> To: AUDITORY@LISTS.MCGILL.CA
> Subject: Why is high high?
> Dear list-members,
> In several Indo-European languages (e.g. English, German, Italian,
> Polish) words 'high' and 'low' are used to describe sounds of big
> and small frequency, respectively. Do any of you know if this
> relation appears in other (especially, non-Indo-European)
> Moreover, what may be the source of the relation? What has a
> vertical linear distance (high/low) to do with sound frequency?
> When you look at people, the relation of size and frequency
> appears to be inverse: usually tall ('high')people (men) talk and sing
> at lower frequencies than short ('low') people (women, children). Big
> things sound lower than small things: a piccolo is smaller than
> a tuba.
> I read in a review that as frequency of a sound increases, the
> perceived location rises in elevation (I have not the original papers
> yet). Could this be the cause?
> But what are the physiological bases of this perceptual
> Is it caused by some selective attenuation/amplification by pinnae?
> Or is it a property of auditory centers in brain? Is it inherited or
> If it is inherited, it should have an evolutionary cause: did high-
> frequency sounds come to an australopithecus from high elevation
> (birds)? and low frequency sounds from low elevation (sounds of
> buffalo's steps transmitted via ground)?
> If the perceptual phenomenon is learned, then again: do high
> frequency sounds come to an infant from high elevation and low
> sounds from low elevation?
> Can anyone comment my questions?
> Pawel Kusmierek
> Pawel Kusmierek
> Department of Neurophysiology
> Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology
> 3, Pasteur St., 02-093 Warsaw, Poland
> tel. (48-22) 659 85 71 ex 379 or 388
> fax (48-22) 822 53 42
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