Impact Factor

Hypothesis & Theory ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 11 September 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327

Music and early language acquisition

  • 1 Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
  • 2 Psychology, Language and Music Cognition Lab, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence. Music, while recognized as a human universal, is often treated as an ancillary ability – one dependent on or derivative of language. In contrast, we argue that it is more productive from a developmental perspective to describe spoken language as a special type of music. A review of existing studies presents a compelling case that musical hearing and ability is essential to language acquisition. In addition, we challenge the prevailing view that music cognition matures more slowly than language and is more difficult; instead, we argue that music learning matches the speed and effort of language acquisition. We conclude that music merits a central place in our understanding of human development.

Keywords: music, language, language acquisition, childhood development, musical development, music cognition, definition of music, emergent modularity

Citation: Brandt A, Gebrian M and Slevc LR (2012) Music and early language acquisition. Front. Psychology 3:327. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327

Received: 15 June 2012; Accepted: 15 August 2012;
Published online: 11 September 2012.

Edited by:

Pascal Belin, University of Glasgow, UK

Reviewed by:

Sascha Frühholz, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Daniela Sammler, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany

Copyright: © 2012 Brandt, Gebrian and Slevc. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Anthony Brandt, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251, USA. e-mail: abrandt@rice.edu