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Topics in Linguistics C: Language, Music and Text-setting


Admission requirements

Some prior knowledge of music theory is desirable, but not necessary.


This course is concerned with the relationship between language and music, both on an abstract level, and in the actual mapping of linguistic material on musical structures in songs (text-setting).
It has often been observed that language and music are structurally similar. Both display some kind of hierarchical organization, alongside a temporal and a melodic structure; moreover, they have a common timeframe of acquisition. In this course, we will review the main areas of overlap between the two systems and broadly examine their differences.
Despite the similarities displayed by music and language at a very general level, little is known about their actual interaction in vocal music. Given the nature of the two systems involved, we would expect interactions to show up at one or more structural levels. By means on examples drawn from different languages and vocal genres, we will examine the way features of speech such as stress, pitch and vowel length interact with analogous features in music, e.g. beats, intervals and durations, in singing.
Readings will cover topics related to the neurobiology, evolution and cognition of language and music, and current literature on text-setting.

Course objectives

Students have acquired the basic concepts and technical terminology related to the topic
Students are able to compare language and music from a structural, cognitive and evolutionary perspective
Students are able to identify the linguistic features relevant for text-setting
Students are able to classify languages and vocal genres based on the text-setting style


Linguistics Research

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar

Course Load

Total course load EC x 28 hours= hours

  • Lecture: 10

  • Study of compulsory literature: 60

  • Assignment(s): 58

  • Preparation exam: 10

  • Exam(s): 2

Except for Lecture and Exam(s), the hours above are an approximate calculation only. Some students may require less time for one type of activity and more for another, and viceversa.

Assessment method


Written examination with both closed and short open questions


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Resit is possible only for the parts that were insufficient


Blackboard will be used to provide students with course information and course documents

Reading list

Reading materials will be made available on Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

When registering, students who are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority: The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the Coordinator of studies

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher:
Teresa Proto

Administrations Office: van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk