ABSTRACT

This chapter discusses some of the key theoretical debates in the field of linguistics, including the notion of the linguistic sign, the role of structure in language, the idea of linguistic competence, and more general issues of language, meaning, and value. In focusing upon linguistic theories that have had particular relevance for ethnomusicology and allied disciplines, the chapter suggests that over the course of the twentieth century, many humanistically oriented linguists have shifted away from thinking about language as an abstract, decontextualized cognitive system and many now highlight language-in-use as a form of situated, and situating, interaction. The chapter shows how ethnomusicologists interested in music communication have followed a similar trajectory by moving away from decontextualized analyses of musical structure to approaches that examine the situated meanings and values of music in performance contexts. Exploring this history and its broader relevance to social theory, the chapter engages with some of the adaptations of linguistic theory in ethnomusicology and illustrates ideas from this work with the musical and social analysis of a Hindi language song.