Theories in Music, language, sign language

Bobby McFerrin. Need I say more…?


I don’t need to if you watch that. maybe. but I will anyway.

This Is Your Brain On Music

featured Bobby. I have my own theories on the correlations between music and language (/language acquisition).

Music has been a major part of my life (starting with Jazz saxophone at age 9).

I am interested in what connections our brains make between music and other information; how music can help us remember; help us use.


But music is not only experienced with the ears; As deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie’s Touch the Sound shows.

Likewise language is not only experienced with the ears. In fact, one of the greatest aids to language acquisition is non-verbal – Total Physical Response (TPR).

TPR at its core is natural sign language.

Sign language is part of the deaf community, so what does it have to do with what’s spoken?

Possibly every hearing person who has learned a signed language has experienced the way sign language affects their spoken language.

In the case of learning a foreign language and it’s signed equivalent, (For example, learning Mandarin Chinese and learning Chinese Sign Language at the same time) the combination of the two reinforces the learning of the vocabulary.

Memorization of vocabulary is easier in combination with the movement; teaching new vocabulary is more direct (teaching through sign versus teaching from native language to second language).

So that the theory goes as follows: sign language aids spoken language acquisition



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