Music and the Origins of Language

Theories from the French Enlightenment

Music and the Origins of Language

The search for the origins of language was one of the most pressing philosophical issues of the eighteenth century. It has escaped notice, however, that music figured prominently in that search. This study analyzes reflections on music and music theory as they appear within the logical and narrative structure of texts by, for example, Rousseau, Diderot, Rameau and Condillac, and considers the ways in which music facilitates links between language and meaning, between conceptions of an original society and an ideal social order.


'Thomas distills these and far more recondite arguments with admirable clarity, and, what is more, he persuades the non-philosophically inclined reader of the relevance of his investigation.' Musical Times

'… it provides an invaluable chronicle of some fascinating developments in the idea of a musical language within neo-classical theories of representation.' British Journal of Aesthetics


Choice Outstanding Academic Book 1996