Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2589-7233
  • E-ISSN: 2589-7241
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Drawing on a social semiotic framework, this paper sets out to examine two different semiotic systems whose default mode of expression is the human voice – language and music. Through comparing how each system differentially employs the human voice, we can identify both their commonalities and differences, and go some way to treating both equally within de Saussure’s envisaged broader field of “semiology”, avoiding the common trap of “linguistic imperialism”, i.e. taking language as the model for all semiotic systems. Starting by conceptualising the key relationship between the text, or unified instance of meaning-making, and the social contexts in which it functions, the paper then examines the material affordances utilised by each system, and the kinds of social meanings they express.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bachmann, Marie-Laure
    1991Dalcroze today. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Bateson, Gregory
    1972Steps to an ecology of mind. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. 2000Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Burrows, David
    1990Sound, speech, and music. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Butt, David. G.
    2001 Firth, Halliday and the development of systemic functional theory. In Sylvain Auroux , Ernst F. K. Koerner , Hans-Josef Niederehe & Kees Versteegh (eds.), History of the language sciences: An international handbook on the evolution of the study of language from the beginnings to the present, 1806–1838. Berlin: de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Callaghan, Jean
    2014 [1999]Singing and voice science. San Diego, CA: Singular. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Callaghan, Jean & Edward McDonald
    2002 Expression, content and meaning in language and music: An integrated semiotic approach. In Paul McKevitt , Seán Ó Nualláin & Conn Mulvihill (eds.), Language, vision, music, 205–230. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/aicr.35.20cal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/aicr.35.20cal [Google Scholar]
  8. 2003 The singer’s text: Music, language and the expression of meaning. Australian Voice9. 42–48.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. 2007 A comparative study of spoken and sung voice in performance. In Kaire Maimets-Volk , Richard Parncutt , Manuela M. Marin & Jaan Ross (eds.), Proceedings of the third conference on interdisciplinary musicology (CIM07). Tallinn, Estonia, 15–19August 2007, www-gewi.uni-graz.at/cim07/
    [Google Scholar]
  10. 2010 The Fach system: Linking materiality and semiosis in a multimodal operatic text. Paper presented atResearch into communication: Theory, method and practice. Auckland University of Technology, 2 December 2010.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Cooke, Deryk
    1959The language of music. London: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Davies, Stephen
    1994Musical meaning and expression. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 10.7591/9781501733987
    https://doi.org/10.7591/9781501733987 [Google Scholar]
  13. DeNora, Tia
    2000Music in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511489433
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489433 [Google Scholar]
  14. 2003After Adorno: Rethinking music sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511489426
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489426 [Google Scholar]
  15. de Saussure, Ferdinand
    1959 [1916]Course in general linguistics. Translated by Wade Baskin . New York: McGraw-Hill.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. 2006 [2002]Writings in general linguistics. Edited by Simon Bouquet & Rudolf Engler . Translated by Carol Sanders & Matthew Pires . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Firth, John R.
    1957 [1935] The technique of semantics. In John R. Firth , Papers in linguistics1934–1951. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. 1957 [1950] Personality and language in society. The sociological review. xlii.2. Reprinted in John R. Firth , Papers in linguistics, 177–189. London: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 1968 [1956a] Linguistics and translation. Reprinted in Frank R. Palmer (ed.) 1968 Selected papers of J.R. Firth 1952–59, 74–83. London: Longmans.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. 1968 [1956b] Descriptive linguistics and the study of English. Reprinted in Frank R. Palmer (ed.), Selected papers of J.R. Firth 1952–59, 96–113. London: Longmans.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. 1968 [1957] A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930–1955. Studies in Linguistic Analysis, Special Volume of the Philological Society. 1–31. Reprinted in Frank R. Palmer (ed.). Selected Papers of J.R. Firth 1952–59: 168–205.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Green, Elizabeth
    1988 A short preliminary study of the structure and functions of intonation in Australian English. BA (Hons.) thesis. Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Gregory, Michael
    1967 Aspects of varieties differentiation. Journal of Linguistics3(2). 177–198. 10.1017/S0022226700016601
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700016601 [Google Scholar]
  24. Griffith, Niall
    2002 Music and language: Metaphor and causation. In Paul McKevitt , Seán Ó Nualláin & Conn Mulvihill (eds.), Language, vision & music, 191–220. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/aicr.35.19gri
    https://doi.org/10.1075/aicr.35.19gri [Google Scholar]
  25. Halliday, Michael A. K.
    1975Learning how to mean: Explorations in the development of language. London: Edward Arnold. 10.1016/B978‑0‑12‑443701‑2.50025‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-443701-2.50025-1 [Google Scholar]
  26. 1978Language as social semiotic: The social interpretation of language and meaning. London: Edward Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. 2002 [1979] Modes of meaning and modes of expression: Types of grammatical structure and their determination by different semantic functions. In David J. Allerton , Edward Carney & David Holscroft (eds.), Function and context in linguistic analysis: A festschrift for William Haas, 57–79. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reprinted in Michael A. K. Halliday , On grammar, volume 1 in the collected works of M.A.K. Halliday, 196–218. Edited by Jonathan J. Webster . London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. 1985 Part A of Michael. A. K. Halliday & Ruqaiya Hasan. Language, context, and text: Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective, 1–49. Geelong: Deakin University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. 1994An introduction to functional grammar (2nd edition). London: Edward Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. 1996 On grammar and grammatics. In Ruqaiya Hasan , Carmel Cloran & David G. Butt (eds.), Functional descriptions: Theory in practice, 1–38. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Reprinted in Michael A. K. Halliday , On grammar, volume 1 in the collected works of M.A.K. Halliday, 384–417. Edited by Jonathan J. Webster . London: Continuum 2002 10.1075/cilt.121.03hal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.121.03hal [Google Scholar]
  31. Halliday, Michael A. K. & Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen
    1999Construing experience through meaning. London: Cassell.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Halliday, Michael A. K. , Angus McIntosh & Peter Strevens
    1964The linguistic sciences and language teaching. London: Longmans.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Hanslick, Eduard
    1976 [1854]On the musically beautiful 1976 Translated by Geoffrey Payzant . Indianapolis: Hackett.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Hasan, Ruqaiya
    2009 Wanted: A theory for integrated sociolinguistics. Reprinted in Ruqaiya Hasan , Semantic variation: Meaning in society and sociolinguistics, volume 2 in the collected works of Ruqaiya Hasan, 5–40. Edited by Jonathan J. Webster . London: Equinox.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. 2015 Systemic functional linguistics: Halliday and the evolution of a social semiotic. In Jonathan J. Webster (ed.). The Bloomsbury companion to M.A.K. Halliday, 101–134. London: Bloomsbury.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Hindemith, Paul
    1970 [1942]The craft of musical composition. Book 1: Theory (4th edition). Translated by Arthur Mendel . Mainz: Schott.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Hodge, Bob & Gunther Kress
    1979Language as ideology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. 1988Social semiotics. Cambridge: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Hjelmslev, Louis
    1961 [1953]Prolegomena to a theory of language. Translated by Francis J. Whitfield , Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics (IJAL Memoir 7). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. 1943Omkring sprogteoriens grundlæggelse. Copenhagen: Bianco Lunos Bogtrykkeri.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Imberty, Michel
    2000 Innate competencies in musical communication. In Nils L. Wallin , Bjorn Merker & Steven Brown (eds.), The origins of music, 449–462. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Jaques-Dalcroze, Emile
    1980 [1921]Rhythm, music & education. London: Dalcroze Society (UK).
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Koerner, Ernst F.K.
    1997 [1996] Notes on the history of the concept of language as a system ‘où tout se tient’. Linguistica Atlantica18–19. 1–20.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Kress, Gunther & Theo van Leeuwen
    1990Reading images. Geelong: Deakin University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Leppert, Richard & Susan McClary
    (eds.) 1987Music and society: The politics of composition, performance and reception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Malinowski, Bronisław K.
    1923 The problem of meaning in primitive languages. In Charles K. Ogden & Ivor A. Richards (eds.), The meaning of meaning, 146–152. London: Routledge. Supplement 1.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Martin, James R.
    1992English text: System and structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/z.59
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.59 [Google Scholar]
  48. Martinet, André
    1960Elements of general linguistics. Translated by Elisabeth Palmer . London: Faber & Faber.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. McDonald, Edward
    2005 Through a glass darkly: A critique of the influence of linguistics on theories of music. Linguistics and the Human Sciences1 (3). 463–488. 10.1558/lhs.v1i3.463
    https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v1i3.463 [Google Scholar]
  50. 2007 Multimodality and multifunctionality in performance: Creating cross-modal coherence in an operatic text. Semiotic margins: Reclaiming Meaning. University of Sydney, 10–12December 2007.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. 2008Meaningful arrangement: exploring the syntactic description of texts. London: Equinox.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. 2010 Creating the classical gig: Exploring new contexts and values for classical music performance. Unpublished MMus thesis, School of Music, University of Auckland.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. 2011 Dealing with musical meaning: Towards an embodied model of music. In Shooshi Dreyfus , Sue Hood & Maree Stenglin (eds.), Semiotic margins, 101–123. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. 2012 Embodiment and meaning: Moving beyond linguistic imperialism in social semiotics. Social Semiotics. 318–334. doi:  10.1080/10350330.2012.719730
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2012.719730 [Google Scholar]
  55. Meillet, Antoine
    1893 Les lois du langage I: Les lois phonetiques. Revue internationale de sociologie (Paris) 1. 311–321.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
    1962Phenomenology of perception. Translated by Colin Smith . London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Nattiez, Jean-Jacques
    1990Music and discourse: Towards a semiology of music. Translated by Carolyn Abbate . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. O’Toole, Michael
    1994The language of displayed art. London: Leicester University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Peirce, Charles S.
    1931–1958Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Reddy, Michael J.
    1987 The conduit metaphor: A case of frame conflict in our language about language. In Andrew Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and thought, 284–310. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Ruthrof, Horst
    1997Semantics and the body: Meaning from Frege to the postmodern. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 10.3138/9781442679757
    https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442679757 [Google Scholar]
  62. 2000The body in language. London: Cassell.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Small, Christopher
    1998Musicking. Hanover NH: Wesleyan University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Thibault, Paul J.
    2004Brain, mind and the signifying body: An ecosocial semiotic theory. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. van Leeuwen, Theo
    1999Speech, music, sound. Basingstoke: Macmillan. 10.1007/978‑1‑349‑27700‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-27700-1 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): affordances; embodied; language; meaning; metafunction; music; semiology; social semiotic; stratification; voice
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error