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PopCult & English

fall 2014

joe trotta

on 8 October 2014

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Transcript of PopCult & English

High Culture
Standard English
Some questions about
Is it important or is it a just diversion?
’High’ vs ’Low’: some comparisons
Standard English (SE) and the cannon of ’high’ culture come from ’above’, Non-standard English (NSE) and ’popular’ culture come from ’below’
More examples from Popular music
The logic for the ’higher’ value of SE and high culture is often circular and self-perpetuating
SE is codified in reference works; high culture is codified in anthologies, histories, university literature lists, etc.
NSE & popular culture can trigger a reaction of ’moral panic’, i.e. they are often perceived as threatening to society. For some they signal a decline in morality, values and taste.
Knowledge of the conventions of SE, just like familiarity with artifacts of high culture, have SYMBOLIC CAPITAL
Representation as a process
What does the actual language use look like?
How does it reflect the ‘lifeworlds’ of the language users depicted?
What influence does the language have on the way we make sense of the text?
How does it affect our view or interpretation of the individuals/group that is depicted?
How does the ‘represented’ language affect actual usage?
What choices are made in the way language is depicted?
What part does the language play in text production?
What are the practices and conventions that affect text production?
How does audience design fit into the picture?
Notes on
Joe Trotta
Gothenburg University

Standard vs
Notes and (final?) remarks
Dialect, Style & Register
Taken together, ‘play’ and ‘game’ constitute a powerful linguistic icon. Every game in the social universe has its clearly defined rules of play. Conceptualizing reality and life as a game is a framework that fixes things, puts structure and system in place, gives one the comfort of order in a random, disorderly world... (Smitherman 2006: 68)

The Media and Popular Culture are everywhere; most of us exposed to it on a daily basis and we could not avoid it even if we tried.
That is the man I was referring to.
I want to see who unfriended me on Facebook.
I can’t get no satisfaction.
He just don’t understand.
They sing real good.
Who did Sally punch?
It was the funnest shopping trip ever.
Prescriptive grammar: a set of rules and examples dealing with structure of a language, usually intended as an aid to the learning of that language. Prescriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be used. It often reflects some perceived ‘prestige’ dialect and has a certain social status.
Descriptive grammar: the systematic study & description of a language as it is actually used by native speakers and writers
Prescriptive vs
Descriptive Grammar
DIALECT: refers to a variety of a language that is characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. Dialects may be based on geography or social variables like social class, age, ethnicity, etc.

Dialect vs. ACCENT?

"A language is a dialect with an army and navy."
variations in formality
“Let me tell you what’s gonna happen here. The two of yous are climbing over that fence and shagging those plates. […] Then, one of yous stays with us while other goes out in the street and boosts another Saturn.”
”I’m all shook up”
”Love me tender”
Be careful our first draw be that overdose
Background &
we don't
"The game be the game."
"I eats me spinach."
"Me fail English?
That's unpossible!"
"We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true." -- Robert Wilensky
DUDe, i @M $0 to+allY 6oING +0 H4xoR j00R 8Ox0r!
l50 lock lfg for enchant
I 1 der if you got that 1
I wrote 2 U B 4
I sailed in the R K D A,
And sent by L N Moore.
He says he loves U 2 X S,
U R virtuous and Y’s,
In X L N C U X L
All others in his i’s.
From An essay to Catherine Jay
by Charles Bombaugh(?), 1867(?)

Standard ----|-------|-----|---------|----------|----- Nonstandard
REGISTER deals with
(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
Diagnose with a stethescope.
The remitting bank must effect payment.
Endorse the affadavit.
We shape our tools and
thereafter our tools shape us.
”...to boldly go where no man has gone before"
(from ‘below’)
poppin’, dawg? I'm-a give it to ya straight up like ya don't know what hit ya. You're work is THE shit! I can't live without it, yo. Damn, niggah. Ya got it
How do you do, Madame. I am extremely delighted to make your acquaintance. It would give me great pleasure if you would accept my invitation for a cup of tea, let's say, around five-ish?
The prescriptivist tradition is generally attributed to the grammarians of the 18th century, in particular, Robert Lowth, who published A Short Introduction to English Grammar in 1762.
You done ate what I has sent you?
Different from vs. different to
Classic grammar controversies
in English
Are there any Swedish loanwords in English?
English in Swedish:
Detta är ett måste, Lasse är en läkare,
Starta upp, kolla in
kanoting, jogging, spinning, videos,
Ylva’s hundtrim, Jacob’s Café
Types of English Loans
Note that most native speakers speak more than one variant of English and can switch style based on appropriateness. Individual judgments and concepts of standardness exist on a continuum and can be fairly subjective.
certain levels of formality are the convention but that doesn't mean that REGISTER and STYLE are the same thing.
Considering now, the concepts of dialect, accent, register, style, etc – what is meant by the term
Geographical Variation
The family are on holiday (BrE) vs. The family is on vacation. (AmE)
Social/Regional Variation
He ran slow
He shoulda did that yesterday.
You coulda took more time.
We seen him do that.
Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.
Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby? Louis Jordan, 1944
You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'/You keep losing when you oughta not bet/You keep samin' when you oughta be a'changin' from ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, composed by Lee Hazelwood, performed by Nancy Sinatra in 1966
She Darked The Sun, Gene Clark, 1968
You Be Illin’, Run DMC, 1986
The female of the species is more deadlier than the male, Space, 1996
The use of Nonstandard English in Pop Lyrics could be accounted for by one or several of the following:
NSE from Popular music:
Formal Standard English
Some examples of NSE from Popular music
I can’t get no satisfaction: Satisfaction/The Rolling Stones
My baby don’t care: Ticket to Ride/The Beatles
No woman, no cry: No Woman, No Cry/Bob Marley & the Wailers
Watching the people get lairy/Is not very pretty I tell thee: I Predict a Riot/Kaiser Chiefs
If you love somebody, set them free: If you love somebody, set them free/Sting
Can you handle me the way I are?: The way I are/Timbaland
I’m so movin’ on: Since U been gone/Kelly Clarkson
I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that: I’d Do Anything for Love/Meatloaf
…and the list could go on ad infinitum….
Language &
Some preliminaries and points of departure
Some examples of Popular Culture
Culture from 'above' vs. Culture from 'below'
Language, Identity & Representation
The Status of English in Popular Culture
Why should we study Popular Culture?
Why use Popular Culture to study Language?
So ... what is Popular Culture anyway?
Standard English (from ‘above’)
English in Non-English Speaking Countries
Traditional difficulties (classic controversies) within English itself
So-called ‘poetic license’ (i.e. the rythyms, rhymes, etc of the lyrics)
Linguistic playfulness, creativity or rhetorical strategy
Style and/or register
Regional/social dialect
Linguistic Identity (which may be affiliated with certain social groups or with a general ‘rebellious’ identity)
Why do we borrow words from other languages?
Why so many from English?
Are there certain areas where borrowing is more likely?
When does an English word ‘become’ Swedish, French, German, Spanish, etc.?
Will English take over Swedish?
Lowth’s grammar was imitated and adapted in school grammars by Lindley Murray and others, and Murray’s grammar, in turn, became widely used in America. […] Murray’s approach also combined elements of the correctionist
conservative in outlook, resistant to changes taking place in the language
used in official printed communication
the variety of English which carries most prestige within a country; the variety used by the powerful (e.g. in terms of social class, material success, political strength, popular acclaim, educational background, etc)
perpetuated in formal institutions like schools by those responsible for language education
codified in grammars, usage books, dictionaries and other written texts
applied primarily to written language and formal speech situations
The term ‘non-standard dialect’ could be used to describe any number of regional or social variants of English, in short it is any dialect that is not considered ‘standard’, eg Cockney, Brooklynese, Geordie, AAVE, Apalachian English, etc.
Get Got Got (BrE) vs. Get Got Gotten (AmE)
Dive Dived Dived (BrE) vs. Dive Dove Dived (AmE)
Did you eat yet? / Were you ever in London? (AmE)
I know him since my school days (IrE).
Some of us have been to New York years ago.
She is in Hospital (BrE) vs. She is in the Hospital (AmE)
I’m lovin’ it.
So what are you wanting from me?
He be sick. (AAVE)
He be’s at home. (IrE)
He does catch fish pretty. (Creole)
I didn’t have no dinner.
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
The most stupidiest thing I ever saw.
We shoulda left sooner.
They coulda done better.
This man what do own this. (English Southwest)
Wen ai did smaal tin woz chiyp. (Panamanian Creole)
They’re not left school yet. (IrE)
I’m gonna do that later.
It’s gonna rain soon.
He gonna do it. (AAVE)
When you are stood there, you can see the flames. (BrE)
I been cut the bread. (AAVE)
is typically:
Some differences in Verb Forms:
A weakening of the strict division between the Present Perfect and the Simple Past:
Concord with collective nouns:
Article Usage:
A wider range of uses of the Progressive:
Frequent use of double negatives:
A much more important role of habitual marking:
Multiple comparatives:
Adjective/Adverb distinction
A weakening of the division between the Past Tense forms and Past Participle forms:
'Be' as a perfect auxiliary:
'Do' as a tense and aspect marker:
Reduction of 'have' after auxiliaries:
Completive/perfective 'done':
'Was sit/stood' with progressive meaning:
Past tense marker 'BEEN':
The general use of 'gonna' as a future marker:
Me and Bill did that.
Jane is taller than me/I.
Who(m) did you see?
I can’t get no satisfaction.
Driving at night, cats can be difficult to see.
… to boldly go where no man has gone before …
Can/May I be excused?
The suffix -–wise
Hopefully, she got to school on time.
If a student has a problem, he/they should contact me.
There’s some books on my desk.
Neither of them was/were happy about it.
Careerwise, things don’t look very good.
Generic pronouns: he? They?
There’s + plural subject
Can vs. May
Neither + singular/plural verb
Hopefully: disjunct or manner adverbial?
Dangling particples
Split infinitives
'Like' vs. 'as' (or 'as if')
Double negatives
I vs. Me
Who vs. Whom
team, stroke, gym, fejs, tajt, sorry, fejka, shit, container, stretcha, cool, hit, mejla, etc.
--note also the different degrees of integration in terms of spelling, pronunciation, morphology, etc
--cf. Hybrid loans: drive-in bio; hårspray, flipperspel, and
pseudo loans: freestyle, smoking, pocketbok)
Mujkvara, hemsida, leva upp till, ha en bra dag, etc.
--(Cf. ‘sense loans’: detta är ditt huvudvärk, jag köper inte ditt argument, Iron Maiden äger!, Lady Gaga suger!, etc.)
Longtemps, pas voir. – Long time, no see.
Je vais driver downtown. – I'm going to drive downtown. (Je vais
aller conduire au centre-ville)
Je suis tired. – I am tired. (Je suis fatigué)
Je ne care pas. – I don't care. (Ça m'est égal OR Je m'en fiche)
J'agree. – I agree. (D'accord)
M'en va tanker mon char. (Québec) – I'll go fill up my car. (Je vai
faire le plein)
Some examples of Franglais are:
Beamer - (digital) projector
City - city centre, downtown, central business district origin
Dressman - male model
Drive-In - drive-through
Fitnessstudio - gym or fitness club
Handy - mobile phone or cell phone, for - due to its very practical dimensions - it "comes in handy".
Oldtimer - vintage or classic car, or aircraft. Also Youngtimer, relatively recent "Oldtimers".
Peeling - facial or body scrub
Shooting - photo shoot
Showmaster -TV-show host
Slip - briefs, knickers, panties
Smoking - dinner suit, tuxedo origin: the then less formal dress for events with smoking allowed
Streetworker - social worker
Double Action Waschgel
Vitalisierendes Peeling
Oil Control Waschgel
Neutrogena Visibly Clear Anti-Mitesser Peeling
Color Waschmittel instead of 'Farbwaschmittel' or 'Waschmittel für Farbiges'
aeróbica (ay-RO-bi-ka) -- dynamic female.
averaje (a-ve-RAH-je) -- average.
boila (BOY-lah) -- heating appliance, boiler.
carpeta (kar-PE-tah) -- carpet.
chopin (TCHO-peen) -- 1.Shopping center mall. 2. n., going shopping.
deiof (dey-OF) -- day off.
frizer (FREE-zer) -- refrigerator.
grocear (gro-SEAR) -- to acquire groceries.
lonche (LONCHE) -- 1. midday meal. 2. food served to guests at event.
marqueta (mar-ke-tah) -- supermarket.
pari (PA-ree) -- a party.
ruki (ROOH-kee) -- novice.
Some examples of Denglisch are:
Some examples of Spanglish are:
Direct Lexical Loans:
Loan Translations (aka calques):
Construction Loans:
Listen to Snoop Pearson
Listen to Tony & the boys
listen to Mos Def
what is Popular
Is it the same as mass media, i.e. TV, movies,
Consider the following examples:
Is it low (vulgar) culture as opposed to high (elite) culture?
STYLE deals with
variations conntected with
topic matter.
the internet, radio, magazines, etc.?
teaching method with aspects of moral education, helping to establish a tradition of promoting virtue, patriotism, and religion through grammar study.
(cf Battistella 2005:47)
In certain registers,
of course,
goin’ for y’all!
Yo, wassup, yo, yo, yo! What's
The haters can't fuck with it
'Cause they mom and they sister and girl in love with it
Sound man holla black COME WITH IT
Spin the record 'till the record done spinnin’
Up top is you gettin’ up with it?
Dirty dirty is you gettin’ cronk with it?
Smokey smoke from coast to coast
Culture anyway?
(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
Father is fatigued.
Dad is shattered.
The old man is knackered.
Dad is tired.
what about
the internet
So ...
P4Ul $LuT5 4T 6T4
PH34r Me, 1 PWN j00!
run, can summon, pst
Popular Culture:
Why is so much of the English in Pop Culture non-standard?
Do digital media and online culture affect the way we think?
Can it be a helpful tool in the classroom?
Some general points to consider:

identity as a social construction
What is linguistic identity?
constructing personal identity and group identity
who ‘defines’ your group?
language use and degree of integration in a group
overt and covert prestige
ma nizzle"
some questions
brief history of
Non-standard English
In this context, how does the popular culture and language of popular culture create and/or promote certain ways of thinking about things such as ethnicity, gender, social class, age, subcultural identity, etc.?
-- Marshall McLuhan
EFL students need to better understand 'appropriateness' as well as the cultural, contextual and situational factors that affect language choices.
In many EFL countries, students connect with English because it relates to their subcultural identities and interests.
In EFL countries (like Sweden), ‘passive’ English language situations like watching TV, listening to music, using the internet, etc, are generally the most common form of contact with English.
... and don't forget netspeak's intentional typos:
... and so on ...
Popular Culture
Non-Standard English
Thanks for your attention!
These are the ways people often characterize the differences
... and oddly enough, many of these points are made about the
standard & nonstandard English!
'high' culture & 'pop' culture...
24 different accents in less than 10 minutes!
In the summer of 1954, Walter Cronkite refused to read Winston cigarette’s then new advertising jingle – why?
Bad grammar,
Geoffrey Nunberg, in his preface to Language in the USA: Themes for the Twenty-first Century, states that when Merriam-Webster published its Third New International Dictionary in 1961, it included the use of like as a conjunction -- actually citing the egregious Winston ad as a example of common usage.
Nunberg also states that critics were incensed about MW’s permissive attitude to language usage and ‘[T]he dictionary’s derelictions were front-page news for months – The New York times condemned it as a Bolshevik document and the Chicago Daily News took it as the symptom of ‘a general decay in values’ (Nunberg 2004:xiii, my emphasis)
Winston tastes good –
Merriam-Webster bad?
other immoral habits
cigarettes &
Note that this version of the lecture contains a number of embedded You Tube videos and extra slides - - I typically do not take time to discuss all of these in the presentation, but they have been added here to provide more information, more examples or simply for fun!
A very rapid shift from standard
'formal' English to something else...
Non-standard English?
some possible
this commercial is so wrong on soooo many levels ... the main point for us is the grammar though...
Another shamelessly

(Lots of good refs at the end )

.the most relevant points.

non-academic video...

.. but it

capture some of


(Get ready to lower the volume.)
Get ready to lower the volume!
English loanwords can appear in other languages in both formal and informal situations though probably for different effects
Because of its meaning-making potential, English can be used as a marker of subcultural identity.
English often occurs in advertising - this can occur for a number of reasons, but often simply to be associated with English speaking cultures or to be provocative.
English is even more obvious in the informal language of young people - partly due to the symbolic captial of English, but also because of their constant exposure to informal English through TV, film, the internet, music, etc.
When English is used in other languages in formal situations, it is usually because some professional registers lean heavily on English loanwords, especially in Science, Technology and Academia in general. English words can become part of the accepted vocabulary regardless of language.
English MOST obvious?
Where is the influence of
So why English?
At the present moment, English is the unofficial Lingua Franca of Science, Technology, Economics, among others.
New inventions, trends, concepts are often first articulated in English - there can be a lag before these are translated into other languages
Much of the world-wide entertainment that we experience originates in English-speaking countries.
English has a great deal of symbolic capital, especially in countries like Sweden
There is a type of cultural 'closeness' between Sweden and the USA - think of historical emigration patterns, modern emigration for economic opportunity, etc.
listen to a (fairly long) talk on internet culutre
an example of the way many young people learn about current events today

on YouTube
on YouTube
Full transcript