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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: “I am Maasai”: Interpreting ethnic parody in Bongo Flava
Author: Katrina Daly Thompson
Institution: University of California
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: In the Tanzanian Bongo Flava youth music scene, Abel Motika is a popular artist who uses both verbal and visual markers of Kisongo Maasai ethnicity to style himself as “the Maasai rapper” with the stage name “Mr. Ebbo.” Through analysis of his 2002 song “Mi Mmasai” ‘I am Maasai’, this study investigates his ethnic stylizing in playful use of Maa pronunciation and an understudied Swahili language game known as kinyume ‘backwards style’. The study finds that while Ebbo strategically disrupts the sociolinguistic order that privileges Standard Swahili, the Maasai persona he projects is humorously stylized as unable both to speak Standard Swahili and to engage with the urban lifestyle associated with Tanzania's de-ethnicized Swahili modernity, thereby leaving dominant ideologies of language and ethnicity intact. Moreover, in arguing that Motika's stylization of ethnicity has a contradictory effect, both affirming a local ethnic identity and preserving the logic of ethnolinguistic stereotyping, the study critiques approaches to hip hop that privilige authorial intent and assume linguistic subversiveness. (Swahili, Maa, Bongo Flava, parody, ethnicity, rap, kinyume)


This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 39, Issue 4.

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