Pop culture provides rich data that demonstrate the complex interplay of World Englishes
My dear colleague Michael Westphal and I turned our blogpost into a more detailed, refined, and peer-reviewed article for English Today. I am happy to announce that it was published online on February 13th 2017. Below you will find our abstract published on English Today’s First View platform.
Singing is a very dynamic and innovative mode of communication through which artists often express themselves with a set of various voices. Today, pop music circulates across national boundaries and English is the main medium of communication in transnational pop culture. In this special context different varieties of English meet at a high density. Rihanna’s single Work is an example of this prevalent multivocality in pop music culture. Her language performance attracted public attention of various sorts as she audibly incorporates several Caribbean English Creole (CEC) features. While some critics describe her lyrics as ‘gibberish’ (cf. Noelliste, 2016), others acknowledge her performance as a ‘reclamation of her Barbadian heritage’ (Gibsone, 2016). The example of Rihanna shows that singers can be transporters of English varieties: she is a Caribbean artist who started a successful career in the US, and whose music today has global reach. Singers, like Rihanna, are thus mobile, transnational linguistic agents. On the one hand, she physically travels the world playing concerts to her audiences. On the other, her persona, music, videos, and further media commodities are part of the global ‘mediascape’ (Appadurai, 1996). In other words, her products easily spread across the globe and are reproduced, transcending national and social boundaries. New technologies (e.g. smart phones, tablets) and applications (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) facilitate as well as accelerate the transnational dissemination of media resources. Moreover, singers show that the linguistic (and cultural) resources as such are mobile. Different language influences are formed into individual linguistic repertoires. Singers often playfully employ certain features to highlight parts of their identity or locate themselves in a particular music genre.
- Jansen, L. and Westphal, M. 2017. Rihanna Works Her Multivocal Pop Persona: A Morpho-syntactic and Accent Analysis of Rihanna’s Singing Style. English Today. <https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/english-today/article/div-classtitlerihanna-works-her-multivocal-pop-persona-a-morpho-syntactic-and-accent-analysis-of-rihannaandaposs-singing-stylediv/38E62910167A86F253384150950CE117> (Accessed February 26, 2017).
- Appadurai, A. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
- Gibsone, H. 2016. ‘Talking tactics: Rihanna and the pop stars who change accent.’ Online at <http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/feb/04/talk-that-talk- rihanna-the-cunning-linguist> (Accessed February 4, 2016).
- Noelliste, L. 2016. ‘Unaware of Jamaican Patois: Critics Blast Rihanna for Speaking “Gibberish” on her New Single “Work”.’ Online at <http://blackgirllonghair.com/ 2016/02/unaware-of-jamaican-patois-critics-blast- rihanna-for-speaking-gibberish-on-her-new-single-work/> (Accessed April 4, 2016).