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Re: Why is high high?

At 11:10 AM 8/26/1998, Pawel Kusmierek wrote:
>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?

Multipath reflections in the pinnae seem to affect the intensity spectra of
wideband sounds.  The human and bat literature have identified a notch that
shifts up for high elevations and down for low elevations.  I've also seen
evidence for alternative explanations.

Harry Erwin, Internet: herwin@gmu.edu, Web Page: http://osf1.gmu.edu/~herwin
Senior Software Analyst supporting the FAA, PhD candidate in computational
neuroscience--modeling how bats echolocate--and lecturer for CS 211 (data
structures and advanced C++).

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