Title

Language and Oppression: A Sociolinguistic Approach to Blues Music

Publication Date

4-6-2018

Document Type

Poster

Department

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Mentor

Patxi Lascurain Ibarlucea

Mentor Department

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Abstract

Sociolinguistics is the study of variation in language form and use, related to social, behavioral, situational, temporal and geographic influences. This creates differences among individuals from various backgrounds, who stick to their own sociocultural conventions. In general terms, there has always been an increasing tendency to study the relationship between language and ethnicity, being the latter one of the most common variables within sociolinguistic studies. Ethnicity could be described as a collectivity within a larger society, having a real or putative common ancestry, memories of a shared historical past, and a cultural focus on one or more symbolic elements defined as the epitome of their peoplehood. Departing from slaves' work songs and consequent spirituals, the sociolinguistic approach to the origins of blues as a collective music genre has pathed a fascinating link between the empowering of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and the African American identity. In fact, popular modes of expression like "hoolies" and "field hollers" gave the African-American ethnic group a sense of togetherness and inseparability. These constituted a self-authenticating poetic model, a call-and-response medium of self-expression which provided the singer with the opportunity to build an imaginary story, such as the escape towards a better life, or the mitigation of misfortunes. Similarly, the origin of blues derives also from the spirituals, songs which exposed an overwhelming religious devotion which has often been associated with struggles for human rights, social justice and peace in the history of the United States. Additionally, these profound conformations created a discourse that represented freedom and the concept of God for the collective good in more immediate terms, which was also visible in the Blues lyrics. In correlation to this, Charlie (or Charley) Patton (1891-1934), is considered to be the founding source of a musical lineage that runs through Johnson to the Chicago masters and on to encompass virtually everything now called Blues. Based on the corpus analysis of this eminent Mississippi Delta blues man's songs, the outcomes of this study have substantiated how blues is a formulaic composition which includes many AAVE features and is based on themes involving Afro-American communal values, conceptions and believes. This way, and from slavery onwards, it seems that the wish to escape from oppression did not only come from these people but also from their dialect which, by means of diverse oral manifestations, attempted to reveal against the more standardized English language.

Comments

Diaz Mazquiaran-graduate

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