Tonal Language

One of our former students, Tilman Fleig, has applied to and been accepted at the Guildhall School of Music.

By the law of averages, I suppose, we get the odd good musician in the school – I posted a while back on our student Taka, who brought his French Horn from Japan and joined a local orchestra for weekly rehearsals and a concert. And we have had cellists and pianists, and probably the odd closet guitarist.


Taka and his French Horn

But never yet to my knowledge a potential professional (although there is admittedly something of a gulf between music school and a professional orchestra). Well done Tilman. I’m sure it was the English lessons that swung it.


English is a more musical language than is often credited – that is, it has more varied patterns of intonation than many related languages.

It is nothing however, to the tonal languages, chiefly spoken in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Mexico, and China and South-East Asia (where one language, Hmong, spoken in South-East China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, has as many as seven or eight different tones for any one phoneme). In some African languages the tonal nature of the language allows individuals to communicate with great clarity over large distances by varying the pitch of drums, not unlike the whistled language used among shepherds on La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Whether this means that speakers of tonal languages are better at the violin is not established.