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The Evolution of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) Use in Hip Hop


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Presentation on The Evolution of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) Use in Hip Hop for the Undergraduate Linguistics Association of Britain Conference 2014 hosted in Edinburgh.

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The Evolution of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) Use in Hip Hop

  2. 2. WHAT IS HIP-HOP? • Started as a subculture in South Bronx in 1970s • 4 artistic forms of expression: • Graffiti • Break-dancing • DJ-ing • Rapping • Rapping is the lexical form of expression 2
  3. 3. RAPPING IN HIP-HOP • Rapping is speaking in rhyme to the rhythm of the beat • Differs from spoken word poetry – “the rhythm of the lyrics must fit with the basic rhythm of the music” (Edwards, 2009:63) • Rapping is also referred to as MCing/Emceeing • MC – Master of Ceremonies 3
  4. 4. BEGINNINGS OF RAP Form of expression that is embedded in ancient African culture with the Griot (Westmoreland Bouchard, 2009:50; Smitherman 1997:4) The role of griot was as an “oral historian, musician, and entertainer of the community” (Westmoreland Bouchard, 2009:50) 4
  5. 5. WHAT IS AAVE? African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is • dialect of American English • a system with patterns of • grammar • vocabulary • phonology Those that speak AAVE don‟t fail in speaking Standard English they succeed in speaking African American English 5
  6. 6. WHAT I EXAMINED Linguists have classed the following as important aspects of AAVE: • Use of “ain't” as a form of negation (Howe, 2005:174) • Auxiliary Deletion (Labov, 1969; Rickford, 1998) • AAVE specific vocabulary 6
  7. 7. CHRONOLOGY OF HIP-HOP (EVOLUTION) 6 time periods • Old School Hip-Hop (1978-1985) (AllMusic, 2014) • Golden era (1986-1991) (AllMusic, 2014) • Gangsta rap (1992-1996) (AllMusic, 2014) • Millennium rap (1997-2003) • 2000s rap (2004-2010) • Current rap (2010-2014) 7
  8. 8. DIVERGENCE The divergence hypothesis is that the unique features of AAVE are a reflection on the social and racial segregation. Labov (2010:15) cites divergence is due to “residential segregation, combined with increasing poverty”. 8
  9. 9. DIVERGENCE AS AN ACT OF IDENTITY Speech acts are a form of projection. The speaker is projecting their inner universe and seeking to reinforce their model of the world by hearing similar speech acts from those they wish to identify with. (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller, 1985:181) Giles et al (1991) writes that the member of the speech community will emphasise the linguistic differences between themselves and someone who is a member of a different speech community as a way to identify their identity. 9
  10. 10. AAVE AS A FORM OF IDENTITY “[AAVE is] available to most if not all African Americans[…] there are grammatical and stylistic features of this language which are constant over space”. (Lippi- Green, 1997:178) “no major grammatical differences have emerged from the study of Vernacular Black English in Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, Wilmington, Berkeley, and Los Angeles”. (Rickford, 1992:262) 10
  11. 11. AAVE & IDENTITIES IN HIP HOP “in the case of Hip Hop artists, identities emerge through the medium of their music” (Cramer & Hallett 2010: 259) Androutsopoulus (2003:18) describes hip hop as “an arena of symbolic resistance to an essentialist understanding of social identity”. Vernacular resistance is provided with AAVE distorting the rules of the majority language. Hip Hop is a method of promoting this resistance 11
  12. 12. QUESTIONS Is there actually any evolution in use? The Message Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five 1979 Starships Nicki Minaj 2012 Sub questions 1. Has there been a large amount of “ain‟t” used as a form of negation? 2. Is there a high amount of auxiliary verb deletion? 3. Is there a change in the amount of AAVE specific vocabulary used? 12
  13. 13. HOW WAS DATA CHOSEN? The 50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of All Time (Rolling Stone, 2012) Due to it being more difficult to find the true amount of sales for some of the earlier records released (Daly, 2005:5). For the newer eras of 2000s rap and the current rap scene it was decided to choose the songs based on sales. Due to the ease of access of this music compared to the previous eras A total of 30 songs were analysed 13
  14. 14. DATA RETRIEVAL As analysis is based on lexical aspects of AAVE I focused on the lyrics The lyrics were sourced using the website 14
  15. 15. RAPGENIUS Allows its users to submit their understanding of what the lyrics are Other users are allowed to then add the original lyrics to help as well as adding an insight into what they believe the lyrics to mean Lyrics are then moderated by RapGenius editors to help provide as close a transcription as possible The website also provides its own guide to posting the lyrics so this allowed the lyrics to be easily accessed and analysed 15
  16. 16. EXAMPLE 16
  17. 17. ANALYSIS Analysis was split into three categories to answer 3 sub questions. • Use of Negation • Auxiliary deletion • AAVE Specific Lexis 17
  18. 18. NEGATION 18 0 5 10 15 20 25 Old School Golden Gangsta Millennium 2000s Current Old School Golden Gangsta Millennium 2000s Current Amount of times "aint" has been used 4 9 9 8 20 6 Amount of times "aint" has been used
  19. 19. AUXILIARY DELETION 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 Old school Golden Gangsta Millenium 2000s Current Old school Golden Gangsta Millenium 2000s Current Amount of aux. verb deletion 30 21 18 16 12 8 Amount of aux. verb deletion 19
  20. 20. AAVE SPECIFIC LEXIS 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Old School Golden Gangsta Millennium 2000s Current Old School Golden Gangsta Millenniu m 2000s Current Amount of AAVE specific words used 67 108 107 97 53 27 Amount of AAVE specific words used 20
  21. 21. THEMATIC DIFFERENCES Dance (Old School) "boogie" "funky“ "disco" Violence (Golden and Gangsta) "gat" "G" "rumble" Sex (Millennium and 2000s) "hoe" "shawty" "money maker" Wealth (Current) "stuntin'" "ice" "dough" 21
  22. 22. EXAMPLE OF CHANGE Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five‟s “The Message (1979): “Broken glass everywhere/People pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't care/ I can't take the smell, can't take the noise/Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice/” Nicki Minaj‟s “Starships” (2011): “Now everybody let me hear you say ray ray ray/Now spend all your money cause today pay day/And if you're a G, you a G-G-G/My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki” 22
  23. 23. CONCLUSION The original meaning behind AAVE use in rap was as an artistic form of vernacular resistance Through the evolution of Hip Hop there has been an erosion of this idea The noticeable decrease in AAVE specific lexis has aided the loss of Hip Hop‟s original identity The change of themes has also reduced the vernacular resistance as Hip Hop now aims to appeal to the masses 23
  25. 25. REFERENCES • Androutsopoulus, J (2003): Introduction. In: Hip Hop: Global Culture – Local practices. Bielefeld: Transcript, p. 9-24. • Cramer, J. & J. Hallett. 2010. „From Chi-Town to the Dirty-Dirty: Regional Identity Markers in US Hip Hop‟. In Languages of Global Hip Hop. 2010. London: Continuum International p.259 • Daly, S. (2005). Hip Hop happens. Available: . Last accessed 05/01/2014 • Howe, D (2005). Yoko Iyeiri, ed. Aspects of English Negation. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p.174 • Le Page, R.B & Tabouret-Keller, A (1985). Creole-based approaches to language and ethnicity. Cambridge Universty Press. p.181 • Labov, W. (2010). Unendangered Dialect, Endangered People: The Case of African American Vernacular English. Transforming Anthropology. 18 (1), p.15-26. • Lippi-Green, R. (1997) English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. New York: Routledge. p.178 25
  26. 26. REFERENCES • Rap, Kool G and Edwards, P (2009). How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC p.63 • Rickford, J R. (1992). “Grammatical Variation and Divergence in Vernacular Black English”. Internal and External Factors in Syntactic Change The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter. p.262 • Rickford, J R. (1998). The Creole Origins of African American Vernacular English: Evidence from copula absence. Available: l. Last accessed 8/01/2014. • Rolling Stone. (2012). The 50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of All Time. Available: hip-hop-songs-of-all-time-20121205. Last accessed 10/12/13. • Smitherman, G. (1997) 'The chain remains the same: communicative practices in the Hip Hop nation'. Journal of Black Studies, 28, 1, p.4 • Westmoreland Bouchard, J (2009) “Portrait of a Contemporary Griot: Orality in the Films and Novels of Ousmane Sembene,” Journal of African Literature and Culture, No. 6., p.50 26