A Wittgensteinian analysis of modern hip hop culture and language!
Running Head: RAP GAMES!
Rap games - a Wittgensteinian analysis of modern hip hop culture and language! Introduction For new listeners many hip hop songs will be almost incomprehensible due to the language used. Yet seasoned listeners will be able to explain new songs without much thought. I take this to suggest that the language of hip hop resembles language games as per Wittgenstein’s view. In this short essay, I set out to explain this statement. Firstly, the hip hop culture is discussed together with the characteristics of the language used in hip hop culture. Next the explained culture is analysed ...view middle of the document...
! Samy Alim wrote a thorough analysis of African American vernacular English as used in hip hop, or hip hop nation language as he calls it (Alim, 2006). At ﬁrst glance African American vernacular English seems to be a slang or dialect of American English. However, the language used in hip hop refers to much more. In addition to the syntax of what some might call the slang, hip hop language deals with the discourse and communication of the communities, the understanding of how it binds the communities, the linguistic battles between rap opponents, and even language as it is manifested in fashion, dance, and art (such as graﬃti). Alim’s analysis includes ten characteristics 0f hip hop language. Firstly, as has been mentioned already, it is rooted in the language of African Americans. It is the newest chapter in the African American oral tradition (1). Hip hop language is only one of many languages spoken by African Americans (2). It is widely spoken by across the United States, as well as abroad by various ethnic groups (3). Hip hop language has its own grammar, deﬁnitions and pronunciations, and unique ways of discourse (4). Hip hop language is the combination of black speech, black music and black literature (5). It includes diﬀerent views on use of language (6). Hip hop language is essential to the identity of an entity known as the “hip hop nation” (in Alim’s words) (7). Hip hop language varies regionally, even on a very local level (8). An essential aspect of hip hop language is that it fulﬁls all the needs that members of the hip hop nation have for communication (9). Lastly, hip hop language and its development stand in close relation to the sociopolitical circumstances of the hip hop nation (10). !
Running Head: RAP GAMES!
Wittgenstein’s language games In his Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein departed from the views posed in his earlier works, most notably the Tractacus-Logico Philsophicus. In fact, his new view on language and the meaning of language was radically diﬀerent from all previous works. Instead of focusing on the meaning of language and words as representations of the world surrounding us, Wittgenstein states that the meaning should be explained by the use of language (Wittgenstein & Anscombe, 1953). The use of language (and therefore the meaning) diﬀers per context, or, in Wittgenstein’s terms, per language game. ! Grammar according to Wittgenstein is the system of rules that determine if the language used makes sense. It is not abstract, but rather contained within the aforementioned language games. Language games are an act, a “form of life” (Wittgenstein & Anscombe, 1953). Agreement on these forms of life is what enables the use of language. This agreement does not consist of strict rules, but it points toward the conventional nature of (language) games. ! Wittgenstein rejects the notion of representational meaning by the notion of family resemblance. Instead of looking for one core ingredient that all...