query: metaphors for high/low pitch

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Wed Jan 3 14:09:49 UTC 2007

Dear all,

I am posting the following query on behalf of a musicologist colleague, 
Zohar Eitan (zeitan at post.tau.ac.il).  Please respond to *me* with 
specific data (which I will compile and then pass on to the author of 
the query), to the *lingtyp list* if you think your response is of 
general interest, or to *Zohar Eitan* if you wish to discuss these 
issues further with him.

The query:

In English (and other languages) auditory pitch is metaphorically mapped 
onto spatial verticality ("high" vs. "low" notes, ascending vs. 
descending melody).  I am interested in information on the ways diverse 
languages designate the polarities of auditory pitch.  In particular:
1.  Is  the verticality metaphor used to designate auditory pitch poles 
(i.e., equivalents of the English "high-low") and  the corresponding 
pitch changes and ("ascend-descend") ?
2.  If so, is  the verticality-auditory mapping applied as in English 
(e.g., female voices and flute sound are "high", male voices 
and double-bass sounds are "low") or in  the _opposite_ way?
3. Are other antonyms (e.g., small-large, young-old) used as _general_ 
terms for the polarities of auditory pitch and for corresponding pitch 
4.  Are any _specific_ terms used to designate "high" and "low" ranges 
of  auditory pitch within certain contexts (e.g., the human voices, a 
specific musical instrument)?  What, if any, are the metaphorical 
mapping applied in using these terms?

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 
Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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