Why is high high? (Pawel Kusmierek )

Subject: Why is high high?
From:    Pawel Kusmierek  <pq(at)nencki.gov.pl>
Date:    Wed, 26 Aug 1998 11:10:51 +0200

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(at)nencki.gov.pl ICQ 11740175 McGill is running a new version of LISTSERV (1.8c on Windows NT). Information is available on the WEB at http://www.mcgill.ca/cc/listserv

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <dpwe@ee.columbia.edu>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University