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Re: Minor third

I am curious just how "universal" this "universal" is. I have seen cases
where what has been claimed as a universal is merely a case of ignoring any
data that don't fit the model.  I haven't listened to street vendors lately
(that being a disappearing breed in the US) but I have been to many
basketball games and can't recall hearing too many cries of "Air
Ball".  Either the crowd groans (if it's the home team) or shouts

Any data?

Brian Gygi
Postdoctoral Fellow
Speech and Hearing Research
East Bay Institute for Research and Education
Martinez, CA

To: pdivenyi@xxxxxxxxx
From: "Jeremy Day-O'Connell" <jdoc@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Intoned calls

Dear Professor Divenyi,

I am a music theorist currently working on the possible linguistic sources
of certain stereotyped musical gestures.  I'm especially interested in what
I think of as "calling thirds" (what Ladd and others have called "stylized

Although I'm new to linguistics, I have been in touch with John Ohala, who
thought you might be of some assistance.

I was wondering if you (or anyone you're aware of) has thought about the
purported universality of the minor third interval (give or take a
semitone) in stylized intonation -- the calls of street vendors, the
vocatives so widely cited by linguists, the cry of "Air ball!" at
basketball games....  For instance, in addition to Ohala's "frequency
code," might there be an "interval code"?

(My own hypothesis is that the minor third represents a compromise between
two opposite tendencies, one vocal, one perceptual: 1) the _smaller_ the
interval, the easier to produce a consistent vocal tone on the two notes;
2) the _larger_ the interval, the easier the task of melodic "scene
analysis" in noisy real-world situations.)

I'd be grateful for any thoughts or references you might be able to share.