This paper describes the first laboratory study of an idiosyncratic linguistic form that represents a crucial point of contact between speech and song: what is referred to here as the stylized interjection. The stylized interjection, as described throughout the musicological and linguistic literature, is associated with a particular intonational formula—the calling contour—and intriguingly, with a purportedly cross-cultural musical fingerprint: the interval of the minor third. A reading task was used to systematically compare the stylized interjection to four other linguistic forms, and to compare spoken to called production. Analysis of several acoustic variables (involving pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre) demonstrates many significant effects of sentence-type and production, which together establish the characteristics of the English stylized interjection and suggest its interpretation as sung speech. The unique sound-meaning correspondence of the stylized interjection is thereby elucidated. Implications for music-language studies (especially vis-a-vis the minor third) are also discussed.

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