Is Stockholm’s argot more 'multi' than ever? A longitudinal analysis of loanwords in hip hop from 1994 to 2020

Vår nye postdok Nathan Young snakker om låneord i svensk, og ser spesifikt på hiphoptekster.

Much has been written on urban argots and anti-languages – both in global (Halliday, 1976) and local contexts (Thesleff, 1912). But no study has documented real-time longitudinal data that captures their emergence. This project seeks to approximate such a dataset by examining a corpus of Swedish hip hop from 1994 to 2020. Many artists boast of close ties to gang involvement and the criminal underworld, so their lyrics therefore provide a window into otherwise elusive speech practices.

The corpus is self-assembled and contains 1.3 million words from over 2,500 songs by over 500 artists. Lyrics are coded for artist age, gender, ethnicity, "race", city, polarity of sentiment, and year. High-polarity lyrics predict more foreign lexical matter, which reinforces interpreting them as vernacular and oppositional. Year, however, is the most robust predictor of foreign lexical matter – the later the year, the more loanwords. 

I discuss one such loanword, 'benim', a first-person pronoun with self-aggrandizing tenor (e.g. "benim gjorde brott innan benim fick moustache"/"I was committing crimes before I got facial hair." Z.e, & Jiggz, 2018, 2:36, cited in Young, 2021). Borrowed from Turkish, it bears striking similarity to its forebear 'mandrom', a Romani loanword in Low Stockholmian (e.g. "det är mandroms tjejja!"/"That's my girl!"; Koch, 1916, p. 98). One hundred years apart, an important commonality is that they both materialized during explosive social and demographic upheaval: 'mandrom' during The Industrial Revolution; 'benim' during Late Modernity. I discuss how this point might have been missed in typical contact-linguistic interpretations of multiethnolects.

Social ecology aside, 'benim' is also a linguistic anomaly by virtue of being a loanword in a highly functional role (Hock, 2009, pp. 381–385). I discuss how this may have come to be, drawing on Traugott's (2015) construction-grammar heuristic in order to shed light on its grammaticalization process into Swedish. 

The project is ongoing, but the interim results warrant discussion before moving forward with more data collection and analysis.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1976). Anti‐languages. American Anthropologist, 78(3), 570-584.

Hock, H. H. (2009). Principles of historical linguistics. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Koch, M. (1916). Guds vackra värld: En historia om rätt och orätt. Del 3. Stockholm: Albert Bonnier.

Thesleff, A. (1912). Stockholms forbrytarspråk och lägre slang, 1910–1912. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag.

Young, N. (2021). Benim – A new pronoun in Swedish. In H. Van de Velde, N. Haug Hilton, & Knooihuizen (Eds.), Studies in Language Variation: Selected Papers of ICLaVE10. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Z.e, & Jiggz. (2018, November). Sverige vet [Sweden knows] [music video]. Retrieved from

Publisert 23. sep. 2021 16:10 - Sist endret 22. okt. 2021 17:07