Symbolizing Iconic Indexes: An Intentionality-based Hypothesis on the Emergence of Music

Alessandro Miani


The most recognized feature of music is the capacity to arouse emotions in listeners: are such emo¬tions inherent to music (indexes) or are they evoked by resemblance to an analogous emotional expression (icons)? The claim is that music is a conventionalized imitation of an expression of an emotional state (i.e., a symbolized iconic index), but to reach this form three evolutionary steps in human thinking are required: individual, joint, and collective intentionality, which parallel the emergence — and overlap — of indexes, icons, and symbols. Providing a comparative view of the genetic and neuroanatomical infrastructures required for the emergence of music, it will be hypothesized that: (i) music is rooted in ape vocalizations as an index of emotions performed by individual-intentionality agents; (ii) with the capacity for recursive mindreading of joint-intentionality agents, music evolved as an iconized index of emotions; (iii) as a consequence of demographic changes, collective-intentionality agents created musical instruments in order to reduce the structural complexity of the sign aiming at coordinating in joint musical activities and culturally transmitting symbolized iconic indexes of emotions.



Shared intentionality; evolution of music; comparative data; vocal learning; social cognition; music and language; FOXP2

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Print ISSN: 1648-2824
Online ISSN: 2029-7203