What it Do : An Analysis of African American English in Hip-Hop
Wolter, Lynsey K.
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The intent of this research is to study the frequency of African American English (AAE) in hip-hop lyrics of three distinctive eras (conscious, gangsta, and contemporary rap). Scholars such as Geneva Smitherman have argued that AAE is a language variety that stands equal to any other, has systematic patterns, and functions as powerful expressions of identity. Researchers differ about the role of AAE in hip-hop: for example, H. Samy Alim proposes that “hip-hop nation language” is separate from AAE and Awad Ibrahim argues that AAE features are defining characteristics of membership in the hip-hop community. My corpus will help explain more about the role of AAE in defining hip-hop community identity. I have utilized established sources and software to collect, store, and analyze lyrics to provide data pertaining to regions and eras specific to AAE usage. A preliminary pilot study provides the basis of this research in which I expect to find conscious rap utilizes AAE less, gangsta rap utilizes more, and contemporary rap shows fluctuations bases on changes in the landscape of the genre. These results are expected to correlate with social factors prevalent in each era and explain the distinctive frequencies of AAE.