Rihanna Works Her Multivocal Pop Persona: Morpho-syntactic and Accent Variation in Rihanna’s Singing Style

Based on an article in English Today

Pop music surpasses national and linguistic boundaries. It creates a marketplace of various linguistic resources that artists use in their music performances to create their pop personas. Performers are mobile, transnational linguistic agents. They do not only physically travel worldwide and spread their multivocality, but their products are distributed and consumed internationally via a multitude of media channels. They transport mobile standard and non-standard varieties into new spaces and make them accessible to a broad audience.

Rihanna is a globally successful artist with Caribbean roots who combines different musical styles (R’n’B, hip-hop, reggae, pop) and the performance codes associated with these genres (African American English, Jamaican Creole, Standard American English). Her single “Work” stirred up attention: it was praised for displaying her Barbadian heritage, others dismissed it as lyrical gibberish. Intrigued by this intensified media coverage, we became interested in how Rihanna works her multivocal pop persona in this single. We conducted a morpho-syntactic analysis of the lyrics and investigated the accent of Rihanna’s singing style in this song to discover how she combines different linguistic resources. Furthermore, we analyzed an accompanying music video to show how Rihanna visually represents her pop persona.

The morpho-syntactic analysis shows that Rihanna uses numerous features typical of Caribbean English Creoles: for example, the personal pronoun me and him in subject position (me na care if him hurt), copula absence and negator na (you na righteous), modal auxiliary hafi and quotative se (he se me hafi work). While almost all of these features are shared by most Caribbean English Creoles, including Bajan, which is the local vernacular of Rihanna’s home country Barbados, all of them are typical of Jamaican Creole. Jamaican Creole is the most well-known Caribbean Creole and has spread globally through reggae and dancehall. Moreover, some of the features, such as copula absence, are also typical of African American English. However, large parts of the lyrics, especially the second and third verse, are dominated by Standard English grammar.

The accent analysis corroborates that Rihanna combines diverse linguistic influences: her accent is marked by several features typical of Caribbean Englishes/Creoles (e.g. face monophthongs, TH-stopping) and particularly in the chorus she has a distinctly Bajan accent, marked by a high degree of nasalization, under-articulation of consonants, and rhoticity. Besides the Bajan chorus, all features are typical of Jamaican Creole. Some of these Caribbean features are shared with African American English but there are no exclusive accent features for this variety. However, the single “Work” also includes passages where Rihanna uses a Standard American English accent, particularly in the second and third verse.

This combination of different linguistic resources is not random but patterns with the mode of the performance: the Caribbean accent and morpho-syntactic features occur most consistently in the chorus and the first verse. Rihanna uses her Caribbean voice mainly when speaking/rapping. In contrast, her singing style in the last two verses it marked by Standard English morpho-syntax and a Standard American English accent.

The music video of “Work” demonstrates that the Caribbeanness of the music performance is reinforced through visual modalities in an exoticizing and commodifying way. It portrays a dancehall event, where Rihanna is staged as a dancehall queen, and employs an abundance of stereotypical Caribbean images (e.g. Caribbean beer brands, dancehall dance moves, or the pan-African colors red, green, and black).

Our multimodal analysis shows that Rihanna mixes different linguistic and cultural identities to underline and express her multivocal pop music persona in her single “Work”. She mainly combines Standard (American) English with Caribbean Englishes/Creoles but relies strongly on Jamaican Creole and Jamaican dancehall images to perform her Caribbeanness. African American English is another potential resource for Rihanna’s hybrid persona, but it is not saliently displayed in “Work”.

Through such multivocal performances as in “Work”, Rihanna is a global transporter of diverse varieties of English. This playful mix of features is not only a display of her multifaceted and multivocal identity, but it gives insight into language-ideological processes within the global dynamics of English. Pop culture provides rich data for investigations of global Englishes as different varieties of English meet and interact at a high density.

Read the full article here

Link to video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL1UzIK-flA

Link to annotated lyrics:

https://genius.com/Rihanna-work-lyrics

Extracting Meaning from Sound — Computer Scientists and Hearing Scientists Come Together Right Now

Machines that listen to us, hear us, and act on what they hear are becoming common in our homes.. So far, however, they are only interested in what we say, not how we say it, where we say it, or what other sounds they hear. Richard Lyon describes where we go from here.

 

Based on positive experiences of marrying auditory front ends to machine-learning back ends, and watching others do the same, I am optimistic that we will see an explosion of sound-understanding applications in coming years. At the same time, however, I see too many half-baked attempts that ignore important properties of sound and hearing, and that expect the machine learning to make up for poor front ends. This is one of reasons that I wrote Human and Machine Hearing.

Machines that listen to us, hear us, and act on what they hear are becoming common in our homes, with Amazon Echo, Google Home, and a flurry of new introductions in 2017. So far, however, they are only interested in what we say, not how we say it, where we say it, or what other sounds they hear. I predict a trend, very soon, toward much more human-like hearing functions, integrating the “how”, “what”, and “where” aspects of sound perception to augment the current technology of speech recognition. As the meaning of sound comes to be better extracted, even the “why” is something we can expect machines to deal with.

Some of these abilities are becoming available already, for example in security cameras, which can alert you to people talking, dogs barking, and other sound categories. I have developed technologies to help this field of machine hearing develop, on and off over the last 40 years, based firmly in the approach of understanding and modeling how human hearing works. Recently, progress has been greatly accelerated by leveraging modern machine learning methods, such as those developed for image recognition, to map from auditory representations to answers to the “what” and “where” questions.

It is not just computer scientists who can benefit from this engineering approach to hearing. Within the hearing-specialized medical, physiology, anatomy, and psychology communities, there is a great wealth of knowledge and understanding about most aspects of hearing, but too often a lack of the sort of engineering understanding that would allow one to build machine models that listen and extract meaning as effectively as we do. I believe the only way to sort out the important knowledge is to build machine models that incorporate it. We should routinely run the same tests on models that we run on humans and animals, to test and refine our understanding and our models. And we should extend those tests to increasingly realistic and difficult scenarios, such as sorting out the voices in a meeting — or in the proverbial cocktail party.

To bring hearing scientists and computer scientists together, I target the engineering explanations in my book to both. A shared understanding of linear and nonlinear systems, continuous- and discrete-time systems, acoustic and auditory approaches, etc., will help them move forward together, rather than in orthogonal directions as has been too common in the past.

Find out more about the book and check out Richard Lyon’s commentary on, and errata for, Human and Machine Hearing.

Richard F. Lyon leads Google’s research and applications development in machine hearing as well as the team that developed camera systems for the Google Street View project. He is an engineer and scientist known for his work on cochlear models and auditory correlograms for the analysis and visualization of sound, and for implementations of these models, which he has also worked on at Xerox PARC, Schlumberger, and Apple. Lyon is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and of the Association for Computing Machinery, and is among the world’s top 500 editors of Wikipedia. He has published widely in hearing, VLSI design, signal processing, speech recognition, computer architecture, photographic technology, handwriting recognition, computer graphics, and slide rules. He holds 58 issued United States patents for his inventions, including the optical mouse.

New: Registered Reports for Journal of Child Language – coming summer 2018

Journal of Child Language is pleased to announce the introduction of Registered Reports. The cornerstone of the Registered Reports format is that a significant part of the manuscript is reviewed prior to data collection. Initial submissions will include a description of the key research question and background literature, hypotheses, experimental procedures and detailed analyses plan. Papers will be accepted on the basis of potential theoretical impact, and the highest quality manuscripts will be given an “in principle acceptance” commitment to publication after data collection. Authors will also be required to submit data and analyses scripts to public repositories such as OSF (although exceptions may be possible where ethical reasons prevent sharing of some parts of the data).

We hope that this new format is a step towards greater transparency in the study of child language and will help to minimize bias in our science.

Journal of Child Language will continue to publish the other formats which are currently part of the journal, General Articles and Brief Research Reports.

We plan to update our systems to start accepting this new format by summer 2018. In the meantime, any researchers who are potentially interested in this new format should contact the editor.

Please also see our new Registered Report guidelines for authors and reviewers for full information.

We welcome any comments or suggestions regarding this new format.

To explore the latest issue of the journal, click here.

Journal of Child Language Special Issue Call for Papers

Call for Papers: The influence of input quality and communicative interaction on language development

Guest Editors: Elma Blom and Melanie Soderstrom

While studies on the influence of the input on language development have often focused on the quantity of input, there is a growing recognition of the importance of qualitative aspects of the input and the characteristics of communicative interaction. Papers for the special issue would include studies of any qualitative input and interaction-based aspects of language development in diverse populations of children and youth.

 

Relevant topics and questions that papers could address are the following:

Input quality, communicative interaction and language development: What is the role of qualitative characteristics of the input (e.g. child-directed speech, joint attention, responsiveness, turn-taking, reading vs. screentime, computer-mediated communication) in language development? What kinds of input quality and characteristics matter in early development?

Input quality and communicative interaction in relation to socio-economic, cultural and linguistic diversity: Do qualitative aspects of the input explain the influence of socio-economic status on language development? How can linguistic influences be understood in the context of divergent communicative styles across cultures and individuals? How do the qualitative and structural aspects of nonnative input have an effect on children’s language development?

Input quality and communicative interaction effects in relation with sources of individual differences in child and/or caregiver: Do individual difference factors of the child and/or caregiver (e.g., age, sex/gender, language proficiency) impact on input quality and communicative interaction?

Qualitative aspects of the input in the context of children with language and communication disorders: How are input quality and communicative interaction influenced by a language or communication disorder on the part of child or caregiver?

 

The deadline for submission is September 1, 2018. Papers should be a maximum of 10,000 words, shorter papers preferred. Submissions should be made on Manuscript Central: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jcl. In your covering letter, please state that the manuscript is to be considered for this special issue. Instructions for contributors are available on Manuscript Central.

 

The papers are expected to be published Autumn 2019. Papers that are accepted earlier will be published earlier online (FirstView). If there are too many accepted submissions for the special issue, the editors will select the most relevant papers to appear in the special issue and the other papers will appear in regular issues.

 

Download the call for papers as a PDF here.

Announcing a brand-new Applied Linguistics Essay Prize

Language Teaching announces the award of an essay prize which honours one of the founding editors of this journal.

Applied Linguistic Essay Prize

Christopher John Brumfit (1940-2006) was Professor of Education, Head of the Research and Graduate School of Education, and Director of the Centre for Language in Education at the University of Southampton, UK. He was a former Chair of the BAAL and Vice-President of AILA.

In his obituaries of Professor Brumfit in The Guardian newspaper and in Applied Linguistics, Professor Henry Widdowson wrote that ‘[Chris] was both a defender and a critic of traditional values. Education imposed conventional constraints, but these had also to provide for the individual freedom of unconventional self-expression’ adding that ‘Rather than accept current ideas or conventional assumptions, he would submit them to scrutiny. This was the kind of non-conformist critical thinking that he encouraged his students to engage in’.

The essay prize that bears his name aims to reward evidence of such critical thinking, scrutiny of arguments for and against, and original thought.

For more information, please visit cambridge.org/LTA

Applied Psycholinguistics Call For Editor Proposals

Professor Martha Crago is completing her tenure in December 2018 from her position as Editor of Applied Psycholinguistics (AP). Cambridge University Press is now inviting applications for the position of Editor. A team of Co-Editors will also be considered. Final appointment decisions will be made by the Syndicate of Cambridge University Press.

The deadline for applications is January 15, 2018.

AP is a refereed journal of international scope publishing original research papers on the psychological and linguistic processes involved in language. Each volume contains six issues with articles examining language processing, language development, language use and language disorders in adults and children with a particular emphasis on cross-language and second language/bilingual studies. The journal gathers together the best work from a variety of disciplines including linguistics, psychology, reading, education, language acquisition, communication disorders and neurosciences. In addition to research reports, special theme- based issues are considered for publication as are invited keynote articles and commentaries.

AP published volume 38 in 2017. Its 2016 Impact Factor was 1.970, placing it 16 out of 182 journals in the Linguistics JCR (ranked by Impact Factor).

Full details and instructions for proposal submission can be found on AP‘s website (click here).

What is offside in German or Icelandic? Football English in European languages

Based on an article in Nordic Journal of Linguisticswritten by Gunnar Bergh and Sölve Ohlander.

“Football and English are the only truly global languages.” This statement, attributed to the legendary English footballer Sir Bobby Charlton, of 1966 World Cup fame and still to be seen at Old Trafford during Manchester United’s home games, neatly hints at the dual point of departure for this article. The present status of English as the most global language of all is not in doubt, nor is that of football (soccer) as the most widespread sport – or, rather, pop cultural phenomenon – on the planet, with a media presence bordering on obsession. Consequently, football language, i.e. the language used in communication about the game (on and off the pitch, in speech and writing, by players, fans and commentators) may well be regarded as the world’s biggest “special language” – “special” despite its familiarity to vast numbers of football fans across the globe. For example, sentences like The back crossed into the box for the striker to head home or The diving attacker was awarded an extra-time penalty but was denied by the keeper present no problems to English-speaking football fans but are virtually incomprehensible to those lacking even basic knowledge of football.

As is well known, the modern variety of the game started in Britain in the 1860s. A few decades later, it was well on its way to conquering the world; so was football language. The focus of this article is the impact of English football vocabulary in the form of loan translations (calques) in a wide sense, involving word-for-word or morpheme-for-morpheme translation, such as Swedish hörna ‘corner’ and German abseits ‘offside’ – in contrast to direct loans such as offside in, e.g., Norwegian (as well as earlier in German) – as manifested in 16 European languages from different language families (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, etc.). Drawing on a set of 25 English football words from various contexts or spheres (e.g. football, match, corner, forward, dribble, tackle, head, offside, team, hooligan), it emerges that there is considerable variation among the languages studied with regard to their propensity to use loan translation or direct borrowing when importing English football vocabulary, where the same language may vary over the period investigated, the better part of the 20th century. This also means that, occasionally, a language may have – or have had – dual terminology for the same English football word, as in the case of Norwegian corner and hjørne for English corner.

Further, some English football words seem to have been more prone to direct borrowing than to loan translation, and (though less frequently so) vice versa. For example, offside turns up as a direct loan in 15 languages, as a loan translation in only three; football is a direct loan in 12 languages (e.g. Spanish fútbol), a loan translation in nine (e.g. German Fussball). It appears, in this connection, that it is difficult to pin down exactly why a specific football word was adopted as a direct loan or turned into a loan translation in a certain language, while another was not. However, a potentially relevant factor may be connected to the interrelated notions of “semantic complexity” and “translatability”. Words like offside and dribble, on account of their relative semantic complexity or specificity, as witness cumbersome dictionary definitions, may not be readily loan-translated into another language without losing the very specific meanings associated with them.

Further, varying and changing attitudes to borrowing, especially in the form of direct loans, between and within specific languages during the 20th century, may be assumed to have played an important part in the choice between direct loans, loan translations and other indigenous creations (e.g. Italian calcio). As far as individual languages are concerned, Icelandic displays the largest number of loan translations, hardly surprising in view of Icelanders’ time-worn policy of resistance to direct borrowing. Interestingly, Norwegian, closely related to Icelandic but lacking a restrictive language-planning policy in these matters, instead boasts the largest number of direct loans. Overall, combining direct loans and loan translations, Finnish ends up last, with the lowest number of English football loans of whatever kind; indigenous solutions are apparently preferred over borrowing.

Overall, the study indicates a clear preponderance of direct loans in comparison with loan translations among the languages studied. This outcome, however, partly derives from certain methodological problems in the material studied, taken from Manfred Görlach’s A Dictionary of European Anglicisms (2001), with its implicit bias towards direct loans. At the same time, generally speaking, it seems that purely linguistic circumstances – such as formal/structural factors, relative genetic and/or typological distance in relation to English – seem clearly less significant in accounting for the borrowing patterns in the different languages than those related to sociolinguistically potent variables, such as prevailing attitudes and language-planning policies in different communities, as well as changes over time within the same language community.

And, yes, the Icelandic word for offside is rangstæður.

View and download “Loan translations versus direct loans: The impact of English on European football lexis,” by Gunnar Bergh and Sölve Ohlander, for free during June and July 2017.

Applied Psycholinguistics Readership Survey

Applied Psycholinguistics publishes original research papers on the psychological processes involved in language. It examines language development, language use and language disorders in adults and children with a particular emphasis on cross-language studies. The journal gathers together the best work from a variety of disciplines including linguistics, psychology, reading, education, language learning, speech and hearing, and neurology.

The journal is currently conducting a readership survey and the editor invites you to share your thoughts. The survey is completely anonymous. However, we are offering a prize draw as thanks for your input. Participants who complete the survey and submit contact information will be entered into a prize draw to win one of two Amazon.com gift cards for $125 / £100.

The readership survey will take approximately five to ten minutes to complete and your feedback is greatly appreciated.

If you are not familiar with Applied Psycholinguistics, the survey will provide the option of temporary free access, after which you may complete the full survey and enter the prize draw.

The survey is open until May 31 – click here to take it now.

Albert Valdman Award Winners 2017

Blog post from Akira Murakami and Theodora Alexopoulou:

We wish to express our sincere gratitude to Studies in Second Language Acquisition and Cambridge University Press for selecting our paper, ‘L1 influence on the acquisition order of English grammatical morphemes: A learner corpus study’, as the winner of the Albert Valdman Award. The paper is based on the PhD thesis of Akira, who first grew his interest in SLA when he learned about the natural order in an undergraduate SLA class. It is an interesting coincidence that his very first journal paper turned out to be on the topic and eventually won this prestigious award. Morpheme studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s let us believe that the morpheme acquisition order is universal. Modern large-scale learner corpora have made it possible to empirically test the claim on a large dataset. We believe our study exemplifies a case where large-scale learner corpora contribute to SLA research, and it is our hope that more SLA researchers will turn to corpora as a data source in their research.

JLG Call for Co-Editor

Journal of Linguistic Geography (JLG) is an online-only refereed journal of international scope publishing the highest quality scholarship on dialect geography and the spatial distribution of language relative to questions of variation and change. The journal examines topics in dialectology, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, language in its sociocultural environment, typology, and investigations of the theoretical contributions by geographically based studies to general linguistics. The journal also welcomes articles inclusive of maps, sound files, and data sets, as may be appropriate.

JLG was co-founded by Bill Labov and Dennis Preston. Professor Labov has recently stepped into the role of Senior Editorial Advisor. The journal actively seeks applications for a new co-editor to work alongside Dennis Preston, preferably holding a tenured position at a college or university anywhere in the world. The initial term of the co-editor will be five years, with the possibility of renewal. Final appointment decisions will be made by the Syndicate of Cambridge University Press.

The deadline for applications is 1 May 2017.

For more information, click here. Please direct applications and any questions to Amy Laurent, Editor, Cambridge University Press at [email protected]. Please use JLG Call for Co-Editor as your email subject line.