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Language, the Singer and the Song
The Sociolinguistics of Folk Performance


  • Date Published: January 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107112711

£ 95.00

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About the Authors
  • The relationship between language and music has much in common - rhythm, structure, sound, metaphor. Exploring the phenomena of song and performance, this book presents a sociolinguistic model for analysing them. Based on ethnomusicologist John Blacking's contention that any song performed communally is a 'folk song' regardless of its generic origins, it argues that folk song to a far greater extent than other song genres displays 'communal' or 'inclusive' types of performance. The defining feature of folk song as a multi-modal instantiation of music and language is its participatory nature, making it ideal for sociolinguistic analysis. In this sense, a folk song is the product of specific types of developing social interaction whose major purpose is the construction of a temporally and locally based community. Through repeated instantiations, this can lead to disparate communities of practice, which, over time, develop sociocultural registers and a communal stance towards aspects of meaningful events in everyday lives that become typical of a discourse community.

    • Offers a wealth of practical examples of folk song with analyses, as well as a variety of practical musical examples online
    • Draws on ideas from linguistics, performance studies and musicology, opening it up to readers with an interest in popular music, oral story-telling and strategies for questioning hegemonic discourse
    • Demonstrates the close relationship between 'song' and 'language', with a focus on ontogenetic and also phylogenetic aspects
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Language, the Singer and the Song offers a thorough and convincing sociolinguistic exploration of folk songs. The book refreshes and enlarges our understanding of language and music as communication systems.' Massimo Sturiale, University of Catania-Ragusa, Italy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107112711
    • length: 390 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Creating Community and Identity through Song:
    1. Language and music
    2. 'Breaking through' into performance'
    3. The communality of folk song
    4. Answering back: rebels with and without a cause
    Part II. Variation in Language and Folk Song:
    5. 'The times they are a-changing'
    6. Ideologies, authenticities and traditions
    7. 'Insects caught in amber'
    Part III. Folk Song Performance and Linguistics:
    8. Voices in the folk song
    9. The song: text and entextualisation in performance
    10. Going out there and doing your thing
    11. Enregisterment through song
    12. Whither folk song, whither sociolinguistics?
    Appendix: overview of musical concepts.

  • Resources for

    Language, the Singer and the Song

    Richard J. Watts, Franz Andres Morrissey

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  • Authors

    Richard J. Watts, Universität Bern, Switzerland
    Richard J. Watts is emeritus professor of Modern English Linguistics, retired from the Chair in that discipline at the University of Bern since 2008. He is one of the world's leading experts in linguistic politeness research and is author of five books including Politeness (2003) and Language Myths and the History of English (2011).

    Franz Andres Morrissey, Universität Bern, Switzerland
    Franz Andres Morrissey is a lecturer in Modern English Linguistics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He has a background in TEFL, and has published language text books and several papers on teaching materials and language practice through games, music and creative writing, and sociolinguistics and the sociology of language.

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