A Unified Model of Structural Organization in Language and Music

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Is there a general model that can predict the perceived phrase structure in language and music? While it is usually assumed that humans have separate faculties for language and music, this work focuses on the commonalities rather than on the differences between these modalities, aiming at finding a deeper 'faculty'. Our key idea is that the perceptual system strives for the simplest structure (the 'simplicity principle'), but in doing so it is biased by the likelihood of previous structures (the 'likelihood principle'). We present a series of data-oriented parsing (DOP) models that combine these two principles and that are tested on the Penn Treebank and the Essen Folksong Collection. Our experiments show that (1) a combination of the two principles outperforms the use of either of them, and (2) exactly the same model with the same parameter setting achieves maximum accuracy for both language and music. We argue that our results suggest an interesting parallel between linguistic and musical structuring.

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