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Re: Why is high high?

My teacher in high school told once, that in ancient Greece it was
the other way around, ie. what is considered high pitch today, was called
low, and what is low now, was called high then. This was because if they
were playing an instrument which resembles a bit of a tea-bass, or an other
instrument with vertical strings, the hand had to be moved upwards for low
sounds, and it had to be moved downwards for high sounds.

Regards, Daniel Salomons

On Wed, 26 Aug 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)
> languages?
> 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
> phenomenon?
> Is it caused by some selective attenuation/amplification by pinnae?
> Or is it a property of auditory centers in brain? Is it inherited or
> learned?
> 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
> E-mail pq@nencki.gov.pl
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