Who: Jeremy Day-O’Connell (Associate Professor, Knox College & Visiting Researcher, CIRMMT)
When: Wednesday, 11/20, 3pm in room 117
Title: “Speech, Song, and the Minor Third”


This paper reports on the first laboratory study of an idiosyncratic linguistic phenomenon: the “stylized interjection,” which is most recognizable to English speakers in the vocative expression, “Yoo-hoo!”  The stylized interjection, as described throughout the musicological and linguistic literature, is associated with a particular intonational formula (the “calling contour”) and intriguingly, with a purportedly cross-cultural musical fingerprint: the interval of the minor third.

In this paper, I will present the results from an elicitation study which systematically compared the stylized interjection to four other linguistic forms along a number of acoustic dimensions.  Results establish the characteristics of the English stylized interjection, suggesting its interpretation as “sung speech,” and thereby elucidating its unique sound-meaning correspondence.  Implications for music anthropology and music-language studies, especially vis-a-vis scales and intervals, are also discussed.

In addition, I will describe an ambitious cross-linguistic study (including early data) concerning the form of the stylized interjection in ten languages.