Iconicity in Rap Music The challenge of an anti-language
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Starting from the assumption that iconicity, as a means of narration, is prevalent in circumstances in which a new language is invented, the paper investigates the anti-language (Halliday, 1978) of rap music, considered as a performed narrative genre belonging to the long-standing African American oral tradition. As they vividly describe the social conditions and the plight of urban young blacks, most rap songs, in fact, offer powerful narratives of inner-city life, which are to be taken into consideration in a sociolinguistic perspective, both in their narrative structure and in the language used. The analysis, which is pragmatic, is based on a corpus of one hundred songs, collected from 1979 (the year of the first rap record release) up to nowadays. The iconic use of idiophones, alphabetic letters, onomatopoeia, rhyme, metonymy, eye dialect and word-formation processes will be discussed, in an attempt to investigate the extent to which iconicity is a driving force towards lexicalization, but also to what extent the iconic one-to-one principle is violated by individual reinterpretations due to the interaction between author and listener.