Lyrics and language awareness

Faculty/Professorship: English and Historical Linguistics  
Author(s): Werner, Valentin  
Title of the Journal: Nordic Journal of Modern Language Methodology
ISSN: 1894-2245
Publisher Information: Kristiansand : Dep. of Foreign Languages and Translation, Univ. of Agder
Year of publication: 2019
Volume: 7
Issue: 1
Pages: 4-28
Language(s): English
Commercially successful pop lyrics are an important part of students’ lives, represent authentic language material, are easily accessible, and may thus constitute a helpful starting point for various aspects of foreign language education. Despite this, they seem to be underexploited, especially when topics such as grammar instruction are tackled. This may be due to their (traditionally ascribed) “low culture” status and the undesired presence of allegedly ungrammatical content, notably in terms of non-standard features. Based on a corpus of c. 550,000 words, this paper will present an analysis of the salience of such features in English pop lyrics. The results suggest that the material studied actually features a rich array of non-standard grammatical phenomena, such as multiple negation, ain’t as auxiliary, me instead of I, copula deletion, etc. (as commonly proscribed in English language education). From a pedagogical perspective, it is therefore argued that using lyrics in the classroom may offer students a welcome opportunity to engage with various types of grammaticality, introducing them to authentic language in a naturalistic way. More specific issues to be addressed with the eventual aim of raising students’ language awareness through working with pop lyrics are that assessments of grammaticality are (i) very much context-dependent, for instance in terms of acceptability of certain structures and variants in different registers (e.g. lyrics vs. conversation vs. formal writing) and (ii) may also differ across varieties of English represented in the lyrics (e.g. various British dialects and sociolects, African American English as represented in rap, Jamaican Creole as represented in reggae, etc.).
GND Keywords: Englischunterricht, Popmusik; Text; Sprachbewusstsein
Keywords: lyrics, pop culture, language awareness, grammar, non-standard, EFL
DDC Classification: 420 English  
RVK Classification: HD 218   
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Open Access Journal: Ja
Type: Article
Release Date: 12. March 2020
Awards: Habilitationspreis des Deutschen Anglistenverbands