Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Gabbrielle Johnson

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© 2022 Luis Verdin


In this thesis, I present a novel theory of musical meaning. This theory posits a complementary relationship between the theories described in Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s Generative Theory of Tonal Music and Arnie Cox’s Music and Embodied Cognition. Each of these theories explain particular aspects of musical meaning (semantic and grammatical, respectively), though I argue that by unifying these theories into a broader framework, they can explain more about musical meaning than they could individually. This unification is performed via the novel theory I present: the Analogical Argument. This argument suggests that Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s Generative Theory of Tonal Music is theoretically analogous to Noam Chomsky’s theory of Generative Linguistic Grammar (Chomsky, 1966). Given the success of Chomsky’s theory, as well the cognitive approach he employs more generally, in explaining how we construe linguistic meaning, we should expect similar if not analogous processes to be responsible for the construal of musical meaning. Thus, the Generative Theory of Tonal Music is sufficient for explaining how the musical meanings explained by Arnie Cox’s mimetic hypothesis are cognized so as to give rise to the emergent musical meaning that is characteristic of musical experiences.