Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: As two uniquely human facilities with rich semiotic potential and prominent positions in social life, language and music have attracted interdisciplinary interest from scholars in many fields. Linguists have long studied language in musical contexts (Sapir 1910; Hinton 1984; Hammond 2015), and musical language has been an important site of study for scholars of music as well (List 1961; Slobin 1985; Fox 2004).
Recently, scholars have also begun to take a more integrated approach to the study of music and language, examining the two as an interconnected whole through both linguistic and (ethno)musicological lenses (Hughes 2000; Barwick et al. 2007; Tuttle 2012; Sleeper 2018). These musicolinguistic approaches have allowed for richer analyses not possible by examining either music or language alone, within structural, documentary, and sociocultural linguistics (Barwick 2006; McPherson & Ryan 2018; Alim 2006), ethnomusicology (Daughtry 2003; Ford 2007), and both music and language revitalization (Marett & Barwick 2007; Tuttle & Lundström 2015).
Similarly, in recent decades, linguistic anthropologists have increasingly taken a multimodal approach to analyzing both written and oral language with other modalities such as gesture, gaze, color, and text placement, among many others. These analyses have also resulted in a more nuanced understanding of human interaction (Kress & van Leeuwen 2001; Mondada 2016).
This panel builds on work in these areas to examine contexts where musicolinguistic performances intersect with additional modalities, including video games, reality television, spoken word, battle rap, and internet-mediated musics. We argue that exploring these multimodal sites through a musicolinguistic framework enriches our understanding of contemporary areas of interest in linguistics, such as embodiment (Bucholtz & Hall 2016; Goodwin 2000), intertextuality (Briggs & Bauman 1992), stance (Du Bois 2007), language ideologies (Gal & Irvine 1995; Schiefflin, Woolard & Kroskrity 1998), and linguistic landscapes (Landry & Bourhis 1997).
The papers on this panel examine these issues in variety of situations: showing in a Korean reality TV show how the music and subtitles function together to construct a participant as transgressive and linguistically incompetent; how music and dialogue work in concert in an open-world, interactive Japanese video game to situate its players within a larger narrative timeline; how rhythm and prosody weave together deixis and dialogic intertextuality to make meaning in spoken word poetry; how music, language, and embodied stance come together to facilitate the successful communication of gun bars in battle rap; and how music, multilingual soundscapes, and visual language combine to create the musical genre of Vaporwave.
Throughout all these papers, a musicolinguistic approach allows us to examine both music and language working together in these multimodal sites of meaning-making, and helps to uncover a richer understanding of their role in shaping our social world.