In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Street-Conscious Copula Variation in the Hip Hop Nation
  • H. Samy Alim (bio)
H. Samy Alim
Stanford University
H. Samy Alim

H. Samy Alim is a doctoral candidate in educational linguistics at Stanford University. He is coauthor of Street Conscious Rap (with James G. Spady and Charles G. Lee, Philadelphia: Black History Museum Umum/Loh Pub., 1999) and is editor of Blacks Arts Quarterly. His dissertation investigates stylistic variation and identity in schools and society from the dual perspectives of quantitative sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.

Notes

1. Hip Hop Culture is sometimes defined as having four major elements: MCing (rappin), DJing (spinnin), breakdancing (streetdancing), and graffiti art (writing). To these, Hip Hop pioneer KRS-One adds knowledge as a fifth element, and Afrika Bambaata, a founder of the Hip Hop Cultural Movement, adds overstanding. Even with six elements, this definition of a culture is quite limited in scope, and it is useful to distinguish between the terms Hip Hop and rap. Rappin, one element of Hip Hop Culture, consists of the aesthetic placement of verbal rhymes over musical beats. Hip Hop Culture refers not only to the various elements listed above, but to the entire range of cultural activity and modes of being that encompass the Hip Hop Culture-World. This is why we might hear Hip Hop fans say, "Hip Hop ain't just music, it's a whole way of life!"

2. Transcribing Hip Hop lyrics is far more difficult, not to mention more tedious, than transcribing conversational speech data. One song (usually about three to four minutes in length) may take several hours to transcribe. Lyrics have to be transcribed (rather than purchased or downloaded from the Internet) because of issues of linguistic accuracy. The relatively small corpus of data is due, in part, to this constraint. The Black History Museum Committee has collected rich speech data from hundreds of Hip Hop artists, and future studies should expand upon the present study.

3. The data were analyzed using Labov's principle of accountability (1969). Each count of the copula was listed in this format: preceding phonological environment, [End Page 301] preceding grammatical environment, preceding environment, copula slot, following environment, following grammatical environment, and following phonological environment. I have listed the phonetic transcription of the preceding and following phonetic environment. This is relevant to Walker's (2000) work on prosodic conditioning of the copula in AAL, and to Rickford, Sweetland, and Hsu's (2000) response paper. Table 4 is a sample. All possible combinations of the four categories preceding phonological environment, preceding grammatical environment, following grammatical environment, and following phonological environment were listed, and the data were tallied for each environment. This present study, however, is primarily concerned with the frequency of copula absence.

OTW Table 4.
Sample Data
Preceding Preceding Preceding Copula Following Following Following
Phono. Env. Gram. Env. Env. Slot Env. Gram. Env. Phono. Env.
C /s_ / N   business is business N         C /_b/
V /u_/ Pro you     Ø gon        gon     C /_g/
V /i_ / Pro we     Ø family    N         C/_f/
V /i_ / Pro we     Ø chasin    V + -ing C /_t∫/
V /i_ / Pro he     Ø cool     Adj      C /_k/
V /I_/ Pro he     's livin     V + -ing C /_l/

References

Alim, H. Samy. Forthcoming. "Hip Hop Nation Language." In Language in the USA, ed. Edward Finegan and John Rickford. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Alleyne, Mervyn. 1980. Comparative Afro-American. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Karoma.
Bailey, Beryl. 1965. "Toward a New Perspective in Negro English Dialectology." American Speech 40: 171-77.
Baugh, John. 1979. "Linguistic Style-Shifting in Black English." Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Pennsylvania.
———. 1980. "A Reexamination of the Black English Copula." In Locating Language in Space and Time, ed. William Labov, 83-106. New York: Academic.
———. 1983. Black Street Speech: Its History, Structure, and Survival. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.
Bell, Allan. 1984. "Language Style as Audience Design." Language in Society 13: 145-204.
———. 1991. "Audience Accommodation in the Mass Media." In Contexts of Accommodation: Developments in Applied Linguistics, ed. Howard Giles, Justine Coupland, and Nikolas Coupland, 69-102. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. [End Page 302]
———. 2001. "Back in Style: Reworking Audience Design...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2133
Print ISSN
0003-1283
Pages
pp. 288-304
Launched on MUSE
2002-09-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2005
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.