The English Language and Code-switching/Code-mixing: A Case Study of the Phenomena in Contemporary Nigerian Hip Hop Music

Emmanuel Taiwo Babalola, Rotimi Taiwo

Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria


The co-existence of English with Nigerian languages has produced some sociolinguistic consequences. The most widely reported consequence of this language contact situation is language interlarding, which features as interference, borrowing, loaning, code-switcing/code-mixing. This study will focus on code-switching/code-mixing. Several Nigerian scholars have examined these concepts in conversation and in literary language. This study is a departure from the focus of looking at the phenomena in natural conversation or literary writing to a critical examination of their use in contemporary Nigerian hip-hop music. It is a reality that in spite of the fact that most Nigerian hip-hop singers sing in English, they still try to identify with their roots by mixing English with their indigenous languages. The growing influence of some major Nigerian languages, particularly Yoruba (the indigenous language predominantly spoken in the Southwestern Nigeria) is observed to be the motivation for these musicians. Yoruba is becoming increasingly popular not only in Nigeria but also in the Diaspora. In the same vein, the hip-hop music genre has almost taken over the Nigerian music scene with commendable innovations and creativity of the young singers. The innovation is best exemplified in the dexterous use of language in the emergent synthesis. This work will examine the switch from English to Yoruba and vice versa in the music of five Nigerian hip-hop musicians/musical groups, namely: Sunny Nneji, Lagbaja, D’Banj, Hazardous and Style Plus. The objectives are: to examine the nature of these phenomena, to find out the extent of this practice, to examine the reasons for this practice, to discuss the stylistic effects of this trend, and to discuss the implications of the practice for communication in/ through music across the globe.

Session: Paper session: Code-switching 4
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 12