Speech and song have frequently been treated as contrasting categories. We here observe a variety of collective activities in which multiple participants utter the same thing at the same time, a behavior we call joint speech. This simple empirical definition serves to single out practices of ritual, protest, and the enactment of identity that span the range from speech to song and allows consideration of the manner in which such activities serve to ground collectives. We consider how the musical elements in joint speech such as rhythm, melody, and instrumentation are related to the context of occurrence and the purposes of the participants. While music and language have been greatly altered by developments in media technologies—from writing to recordings—joint speech has been, and continues to be, an integral part of practices, both formal and informal, from which communities derive their identity. The absence of joint speech from the scientific treatment of language has made language appear as an abstract intellectual and highly individualized activity. Joint speech may act as a corrective to draw our attention back to the voice in context, and the manner in which collective identities are enacted.

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