Search
  • Vale Saavedra

Code-Switching in Context: English in Korean Hip Hop

Introduction

Code-switching, the practice of alternating between two or more languages, has become a popular topic of study and discussion, focusing mostly on spontaneous and organic instances of code-switching. However, one sub-group in this massive topic that deserves more attention is the instances when switching from one language to another is planned and intentional. This is most often and most intriguingly seen in music, where artists often change languages in their lyrics for specific purposes.

Korean popular music, or K-POP, and Korean hip hop, or K-HIPHOP, commonly employs code-switching. Going from Korean to English is a premeditated act that is not done without purpose. I will explore the reasons for the movement from the Korean language to the English language, and vice-versa. I plan on analyzing one specific Korean Hip Hop artist named Sik-k that code-switches frequently in his music. I will be doing this by studying lyrics to some of his most popular songs, including “Somebody Else” and “Ring Ring”. This study will allow for more insight on premeditated code-switching, or code-switching with intent, in popular music in general as well as in the specific context of Korean Hip Hop music.

Before exploring code-switching as a whole and its expression in Korean popular music as well as Korean hip hop music, it is important to establish the role of English in South Korea and the space it occupies. This will allow for a deeper understanding of its functions in Korean hip hop and how it interacts with society.

English in South Korea

The English language plays many roles, both symbolic and practical, based on the context within which it is found. Exploring the relationship of English to South Korea and Korean in the domains of government policy, education, advertisement, Konglish, and Korean popular music highlights the role of English in this context.

Historically, in the years preceding the Japanese invasion of 1910, English was viewed as a medium to publish Korea’s plight abroad (Mueller 2010: 54). Used to publish agitation by Koreans and propaganda by the Japanese, English became a tool for gaining international sympathy and support by enabling communications with the West (Mueller 2010: 54). In the years following the Korean War, an influx of American soldiers in South Korea, trade with the West, and a drive towards globalization led to the adoption of English loanwords into the South Korean language (Mueller 2010: 54). Today, English is still being learned by South Koreans as a medium to improve international relations and keep up with international globalization (Mueller 2010: 56).

The Korean government has consistently treated English as an important resource that would connect the country to the rest of the world and allow for economic achievement. Since the 1980s, South Korea has focused in gaining international recognition and economic stability within the global market by pushing its citizens to be more proficient in English (Park J.S.Y. 2009). Events such as the Seoul Olympics in 1988 served as occasions for the government to instill the symbolic and practical importance of English among the Korean population (Park J.S.Y. 2009). The Korean government’s emphasis on English was further sustained through several policy decisions. To attract foreign investors and capital flow, the government developed special economic zones, provided incentives such as tax breaks and deregulation of employment and labor laws, and provided new facilities like airports and seaports (Park J.S.Y. 2009). In addition to this, administrative services were offered in English, showing English as a clear economic resource by bolstering the language (Park J.S.Y. 2009).

Through its national education policy, the Korean government underlined the connection between English and globalization. In the 7thNational Curricula implemented in 1977, mandatory English education was implemented in the third grade with the goal of improving the communicative competence of students (Park J.S.Y. 2009). In January 2008, the newly elected President announced that all English classes in primary and secondary education would be only in English (Park J. S. Y. 2009). Since this push, hundreds of English-only ‘cram schools’ have been opened in almost every city in South Korea, often employing native speakers of English to meet the expectations of Korean parents (Park J. 2009). In addition, the number of children who are being sent abroad by their parents mainly for the acquisition has greatly increased, with 35,000 elementary school students studying abroad in 2005-2006 (Park J. 2009). For those students who cannot study abroad, the government has created what they call ‘English villages’ for the instruction of English in a local environment (Park J. 2009). Vast amounts of money have been dedicated to creating these villages where native speakers of English have been hired as villagers of the English-immersion towns (Park J. 2009). This emphasis on English as a necessary resource by the government is reflected in the growing importance of English in higher education and the job market. In the job market, applicants must often provide high TOEFL English scores regardless of the use of English in the day to day position, showing the true linguistic capital that English has come to symbolize.

Despite this intense focus on English education, the actual use of English in speech on a day to day is limited. Instead, Konglish is predominately used by the population. Konglish is regarded as a contact vernacular of English and a spoken, not codified, language with vocabulary that has undergone too much transmutation to be simply labeled as borrowing (McPhail 2018: 47). Konglish may also be conceptualized as a sub-variety of Korean, in the form of words and phrases, and as a Korean language that skillfully adapts English vocabulary as a legitimate part of the Korean lexicon (McPhail 2018: 48). Its status as both a mixed language and a non-official language has set it at a disadvantage, valued under both English and Korea (McPhail 2018: 48). English affects Konglish’s reputation because it is seen as a flawed attempt to master the standard variety of English (McPhail 2018: 50). Because of these factors, Konglish is not well-received by the public, despite its common use.

In concordance with Konglish, English is extremely present in mass media and popular culture, showing up in advertisements, newspapers, television shows (Park J. S. Y. 2009). The use of English in commercial advertisements like billboards and business signs has grown in the past couple of years and print media has shown a gradual increase in the mixture of English into product and business names (Park J. S. Y. 2009). In these contexts, English is not used for intelligibility purposes but instead they are meant to be eye-catching and have aesthetic value like a graphic icon or emoji (Mueller 2010: 63). The language’s symbolic power is being used to produce the illusion of modernity, sophistication, and high quality (Mueller 2010: 63).

Code-Switching

It is important to define code-switching before delving deeper into its roles and functions. The earliest definition comes from Weinreich (1953), where he defines it as “bilingual individuals who switch from one language to the other according to appropriate changes in speech situation”. More recent literature has equated code-switching to “the rapid succession of several languages in a single speech event” (Muysken 2000). Code-switching has also been said to mean using more than one way of speaking in the course of a single episode (Heller 1988). For the purposes of this paper, the definition of code-switching will be based on Bentahila and Davies (1983), where it is described as “the use of two languages within a single conversation, exchange or utterance”.

A single exchange includes both spoken and written discourse in various genres. However, most of the code-switching literature focuses on spoken data, in particular those data drawn from spontaneous conversation (Myers-Scotten 1993). The differences between code-switching in written or planned discourse and observed code-switching in spoken data bear empirical and theoretical exploration. For instance, in spontaneous conversation, bilingual speakers may engage in code-switching to highlight their social roles and negotiate their relationship with other participants, which Myers-Scotten calls “marked code-switching” (1993). People verbally shift in different social situations and align themselves with particular social groups and hierarchies (Isbell 2016: 152). Bilinguals may also code-switch to mark off various conversational moves (Myers-Scotton 1993). The communication of these intentions depends on the face-to-face conversational context which bilingual speakers share two-way interaction which these speakers engage in (Myers-Scotton 1993).

It has also been seen that within bilingual communities code-switching back and forth between community members in the community’s two languages may be natural and unmarked in everyday conversations (Davies &Bentahila2006: 371). However, it is important to note that codeswitching has not always been viewed positively and has been commonly stigmatized in bilingual communities as a ‘slovenly way of speaking, associated with carelessness, inarticulateness and even lack of mastery of the two languages’ (Davies &Bentahila2008). This is apparent in the perception of Konglish as lesser than both English and Korean and the communicative space that English occupies in South Korea.

None of these points, however, characterizes planned discourse like written texts and media, where the writer and the reader or audience does not share the immediate context in interaction. There are many observed circumstances of a more public use of code switching, such as in discourse aimed at a mass audience found in novels, television shows, and speeches, where the identity of whose members may not be so clearly limited to the sender’s peer group (Davies &Bentahila2006: 373). One example of this is the presence of English in South Korean media, such as the popular television drama shows Strong Girl Do Bong-Soonand Oh My Ghost!

Written code-switching is both less frequent and more limited in scope than oral code-switching, where writers are more likely to employ individual word switches and less likely to engage in longer switches (Loureiro-Rodriquez, Moyna, & Robles 2018: 122). In addition, where spoken language is used for a number of pragmatic functions, written language, and in particular language in song and lyric, the typical purpose is to create an object of aesthetic appreciation or artful performance (Loureiro-Rodriquez et al. 2018: 127).

Code-Switching In Music

Switching from one language to another in music specifically is not a recent phenomenon. However, over the last half century, the rapid growth in mass media has provided unprecedented opportunities for people all over the world to be exposed to music originating in cultures outside of their own. Music that was practically unknown in the West have gained popularity, such as the interest in Indian bhangra music in the UK and the opening up of the French popular music market to a diversity of styles (Davis & Bentahila 2006: 374). These migrations have not only allowed for hybridized musical styles, but have also offered opportunities for languages to come into contact, and using more than one of them within the same song.

As suggested by Davies & Bentahila (2006), the nature of rap itself is conducive to drawing more than one language to its lyrics, especially when built through the technique of sampling, which is assembling various pre-recorded sources and then super-imposing the rap lyrics held together by rhythm. The juxtaposing of two languages is what is found in the lyrics produced by North African rap groups (Davies & Bentahila 2006: 384). A common occurrence are long blocks of lyrics in one language followed by one of an equal length in the other language, often linked through a refrain which recurs between each block (Davies & Bentahila 2006: 385). In these cases, the structure of the song dictates the code-switch from Arabic to French. Listeners who know one language but not the other have access to at least part of the song, which allows for the music to reach a broader audience. This arraignment can also be seen as representing the dual identity of the performers, the dual status of their music, and their status as a foreign export (Davies & Bentahila 2006: 388).

This is not the only reason why code-switching may occur in a rap song. Rather, the two languages can serve to separate out two viewpoints or a shift in perspective (Davies & Bentahila 2006: 389). In addition, code-switching may occur in relation to the structure of the lyric, interacting with the rhyme scheme of the song. In rai lyrics, this usually involves lines in Arabic which end with a word in French (Davies & Bentahila 2008). Switching also allows for the use of specific diction associated with the genre, to separate out different components of the text or to link elements together, and finally to highlight aspects of meaning through its interaction with devices such as parallelism, opposition and repetition (Davies & Bentahila 2008). The switches themselves may even reinforce other poetic patterning within the text, or create further layers of patterning over and above these (Davies & Bentahila 2008).

Bilingual speakers in Cantopop code-switch to English for those expressions whose meanings cannot be fully conveyed in Cantonese, better known as having a lack of equivalence (Chan 2009: 108). English is also used to create a more informal atmosphere when Cantonese counterparts sound too formal or too literary in style (Chan 2009: 109). An English term may be used not because it means something different from the Cantonese translation equivalent, but because the English language itself conveys certain communicative effects (Chan 2009: 110). Code-switching can also serve to highlight a word or proper nouns.

The language choice can also serve to communicate poetic effects in the pop song text within the specific cultural context of Hong Kong (Chan 2009: 110). Bilingual punning is also a very common motivation for code-switching in this context (Chan 2009: 112). Another very common pattern in Cantopop is the switch from Cantonese to English at the opening of the chorus, adding emphasis or salience to the chorus where the English lines carry the main thrust of the lyrics (Chan 2009: 112).

The salient use of English in Cantopop is not exclusive. There is prevalent use of English in Korean popular music, or K-POP, serving multiple functions in the music. Because writing English lyrics in this music is an instance of pre-planned, deliberate, intentional code-switching, it can be understood as an intentional choice made by the songwriter for a specific purpose (Lee 2004: 430). This is especially interesting because this type of code-switching occurs regardless of participant or context, which differs from naturally occurring code-switching (Lee 2004: 431).

Code-switching in K-POP occurs in multiple different ways, the first being switching to English for a single word or repeated use of a single word (Lee 2004: 432). English is also used for a mixture of a single word and multiple word switches (Lee 2004: 434). An English word or phrase, or even the duplicate use of a single phrase, is adopted for stylistic purposes, such as to achieve a rhyming affect or as a simple attention-grabber.

In addition to these repetitions, extensive English code-switching is also used typically to serve one of three functions. Young South Korean pop artists are using English to exercise freedom of expression, communicating assertions of sexuality, assertions of struggle with unsettled identities, and assertions of resistance toward South Korea’s societal norms (Lee 2004: 439).

English provides a discursive space for South Korean youth to assert their self-identity, to create new meanings, to challenge dominant representations of authority, to resist mainstream norms and values, and to reject the older generations conservatism (Lee 2004: 445). English lyrics vocalize an assertive, pleasure-seeking, and self-indulgent position, whereas Korean lyrics in the same song represent a reserved, wholesome, and introspective conformist view (Lee 2004: 447). This is not a newly observed phenomenon, as Spanish code-switching in the Texas Tornado’s lyrics (Loureiro-Rodriquez et al. 2018: 132) is also used to create a dual identity, with Spanish serving to create a “bad-boy” image not observed in the English lyrics.

K-POP exhibits many novel properties, including rapid mobility through social media, broad access across national boundaries, and deep connections to economic processes (Chun 2017: 58). Because of its rapid mobility, it displays a certain global orientation that puts it in a position to integrate English code-switching more easily (Chun 2017: 59). However, the functions that code-switching occupies are not universally applicable to all types of Korean music, like that of Korean hip hop. This is because of the very different social spaces that K-POP and K-HIPHOP inhabit.

Korean Hip Hop

Rap originated in New York during the 70s and 80s as a medium of expression for African American and Latino youth. Rap style first became popular through street rap and house parties and eventually spread rapidly due to its role as a liberating force in enabling marginal groups to express and assert themselves.

Defined as a “subdivision within a culture”, subcultures are frequently characterized as social groups organized around shared interests and practices, while music subculture like hip hop distinguish themselves from others by developing social rituals which underpin their collective identity (Hare & Baker2017). Subculture capital is tied to authenticity, and in music subcultures, authenticity is concerned with the organic representation of a subculture (Hare& Baker2017). In hip hop, authenticity is commonly concerned with community building and is tied to the division between the mainstream and the underground scene (Hare & Baker2017).

Under a strict interpretation of what rap actually is, the Korean pop music’s first rap song was “Kimsatgat [김삿갓]”by Hong Seo-beom [홍서범] from 1989 (Park & Kim 2019). However,Korea’s first large-scale contact with Hip Hop came in the clubs in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul, which exposed Korea to global sensations like Michael Jackson that paved the road that led to break-dancing and eventually led to Seoul’s aspiring dancers congregating in these clubs. Korea’s first hip-hop star was Hyeon Jin-yeong, who was a milestone in many respects: he was the first project of SM Entertainment’s Lee Soo-man, and the formula used for Hyeon’s career would be inherited by Seo Taiji and Boys, and would eventually carry over to acts like Deux, which was made up of only dancers (Park & Kim 2019).

In addition, Korean-Americans have played a significant role in introducing hip-hop music to Korea. Their English-speaking ability, American-style fashion sense, and attitude were considered a mark of their authenticity (Park & Kim 2019). It was in this context that Tiger JK, a man raised in the United States and soon to be Korean hip hop legend, began making a name for himself through his group Drunken Tiger. However, Tiger JK did more than lead Drunken Tiger to commercial success; he influenced the hip-hop community that gave rise to groups like Dynamic Duo and Epik High, who collectively planted the lyrics-centered hip-hop firmly in the mainstream pop music in Korea (Park & Kim 2019). Influenced by the U.S. underground hip-hop of the 1990s, and in particular by gangster rap, these Korean-American rappers sought to create raw and message-driven music.

Underground rappers, like DEFCON, also sought their own version of authenticity by crafting rhymes in the Korean language, their breakthrough moment coming in the form of Verbal Jint’s 2001 EP “Modern Rhymes”(Park & Kim 2019). Verbal Jint used the Korean language to create three-dimensional and progressive rhyming structure, unlocking the potential of Korean language within the logical framework of hip-hop (Park & Kim 2019). An attack on the mainstream music industry and K-POP by Korean rappers is almost an established rule as an act of self-authentication for most in the underground music scene (Um 2013: 54).

As the Korean hip-hop scene has become more mainstream, the question of authenticity has been raised to younger rappers trying to establish themselves.Since then, a more nuanced understanding of hip hop has emerged in Korea and authenticity is understood as being able to find the balance between global hip hop culture and local hip hop culture. In this context, Korean hip-hop and rap can be best understood as mobile, not fixed, between global and local in terms of production and between regional and domestic with respect to consumption (Um 2013: 54).

In terms of authenticity, Sarah Morelli (2001) notes English usage and the adoption of Western cultural markers are authenticators in Korean hip hop, while Jamie Lee (2007) notes that African American slang is also used as an authenticator.

Language usage in hip hop subculture, when referring to English, prioritizes language use over language meaning (Hare & Baker2017). English can be seen with phrases such as “let’s go” and curses such as “fuck” and “shit”, which is interpreted as an attempt to pay homage to the original U.S. hip hop culture (Hare & Baker2017). Korean rappers prefer using English slang and curses over local curses. However, Korean rappers such as Sean L and C.Cle argue that the English language is used purely for musical purposes, emphasizing that local rappers are concerned with the composition and overall sound of music, opposed to the language used (Hare & Baker2017). This is in line with the data found in rai lyrics (Davies & Bentahila2008).

Rappers with transnational connections, such as Korean Americans, joined the Korean hip-hop scene. English songs that these rappers created, such as “Kid from Korea” by Drunken Tiger, portrayed Korean Americans’ migrant and diasporic experiences and aspects of racial tensions (Um 2013: 55). These transnational Korean artists were characterized by the emphasis on their rap, often in English, and sampling of non-Korean pop sources (Um 2013: 56). The choice and use of the English language and the stylistic differences set this hip-hop apart from the local Korean popular music, or KPOP (Um 2013: 56).

The findings of Um (2013) suggest that the global and local interface in hip-hop results in highly individual and creative poetic strategies developed by each rapper. These language aesthetics relate to the poetics of rap that ultimately help to understand how culture works and identities are formed (Um 2013: 60).

Sik-k

Sik-k iswasborn Kwon Min-sik in Seoul in 1994. He lived briefly in Vancouver, British Columbia as a teenager before returning to South Korea to pursue music. He participated in the 2015 season of Show Me the Money, a hip hop music reality television based series, and that same year began releasing his own tracks.

Somebody Else by Sik-K

The pattern of code-switching observed in Sik-k’s song “Somebody Else” follows certain popular trends as mentioned by researchers above. The song follows a narrative-like story where the singer, Sik-k, is confessing to his girlfriend that he cheated on her and is asking for forgiveness and a second-chance. In a general sense, many of the English lyrics center around the chorus of the song, much like the use of English in Cantopop in order to add emphasis and salience to carry the main thrust of the lyrics (Chan 2009: 112). Here, the English phrases that carry the chorus are repeated and adopted for both stylistic purposes and as attention-grabbers.

More specifically however, throughout the course of the entire song, a certain dual-identity is crafted through the use of English and Korean to reference certain thoughts and feelings. Many of the Korean lyrics come in the form of requests. With a pleading tone, Sik-k begs for reconciliation with the woman the song is concerned with.

1. 날이해해줘한번만 Cause these bottles turned me To somebody else

2. I can't understand myself too But please understand me baby 용서해주기힘든거다알아도

In example one, Sik-k writes “Please, I need you to understand me just once” and he follows this with his verse in example two “Please forgive me, even though I know it is difficult”. Most of his appeals come delivered in the lyrics that are sung in Korean. He also tries to explain the situation in Korean, giving details about the night and the other woman, writing “You kept staring at your watch and I was just relieved to have another girl in front of me that night”

3. 계속멍이나때리고시계속시간만쳐다보다가 너가아닌사람앞인데도나는안도망갔어

When compared to what he writes in English, the difference is stark.

4. Cause these bottles turned me To somebody else Pretty models turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me 제발날이해해줘한번만 Cause these haters turned me To somebody else Their behaviours turned me To somebody else

5. And it was just few minutes She just trynna dance with me 내몸도같이움직일지 But 난널생각하고있지이미Uh

His lyrics in English consist, mostly, of excuses and reasons why he cheated that shift the blame from himself. He cites a number of sources for his change in behavior, including “bottles”, “models”, “haters”, “behaviors”, and his “crew”. The entire song, as told through only the English lyrics, tell the story that, because he as a person has changed, he cannot be blamed for his actions. It “wasn’t him”.

6. No no It wasn’t meyeah

내가아니였어그순간에

7. ! I wasn't me, myself

In fact, his only true admission of guilt comes in Korean with his lyric “I have the responsibility” displayed in example eight. He also only expresses his sentiments of love and affection in Korean, seen in example nine.

8. 난책임감있잖아homie don't you know

9. 내몸도같이움직일지

너랑있지않는시간은낭비지

This dual-identity is consistent with the expression of two viewpoints or a shift in perspective separated by language, as cited by Davies (2006). In addition, the use of English lyrics to vocalize a more assertive and self-indulgent position, with Korean lyrics in the same song representing a more reserved and introspective view has been previously seen in the lyrics of Korean popular music artists (Lee 2004: 447).

This is not the only role that code-switching plays in “Somebody Else”. In fact, a very specific switch from English to Korean occurs near the end of the first verse of the song.

10. But 난널생각하고있지이미Uh I choose you, you between 계집 너랑있지않는시간은낭비지 알고있었는데생각할껄미리 생각해둘껄미리

There is an intentional choice made to switch from English to Korean for the word “계집”, which roughly translates to “a girl of all ages”or a “timeless woman”. This code-switch is an instance where there is both no direct translation from the Korean word to the English word and a translation would not garner the same feeling as the Korean word. This is observed when bilingual speakers in Cantopop code-switch to English for those expressions whose meanings have a lack of equivalence (Chan 2009: 108). In this case, however, the code-switch back to Korean is because there is a lack of equivalence in English, not Korean. English is also used to create a more informal atmosphere when Cantonese counterparts sound too formal or too literary in style (Chan 2009: 109). Korean was then favored over English because the translations were too informal in style to convey the correct meaning.

The opposite is also true for a code-switch from Korean to English because of a lack of equivalence of a word or phrase in Korean, favoring the English word instead.

11. 난책임감있잖아homie don't you know 한곡을또만들었어오늘도

12. 열심히we be schemmin It shook my head Oh 쉿! 잠깐만조용히 Oh 쉿! 내가예민했어 Homie blame it on me

Here, we see a code-switch from Korean to English in both examples eleven and twelve for the word “homie”, a slang phrase with no direct equivalent in Korean. This can also be seen as a call back to original hip hop and a claim for authenticity, as expressed by Sarah Morelli (2001) noting English usage and the adoption of Western cultural markers as authenticators in Korean hip hop and Jamie Lee (2007) noting the African American slang adoption as an authenticator as well. Another code-switch occurs with this same function, moving from Korean to English to say “we be schemmin”, another sort of slang phrase that has a lack of equivalence and points to use for authentication.

In example thirteen, a code-switch occurs for the word “쉿” which is the Korean onomatopoeia word for “shush” or “shh”. This is significant because it serves two purposes. Not only does the word serve as a poetic silencer in the lyrics to hide the artist’s guilt, but the “쉿” also sounds very similar to the English word “shit”. The language choice motivation is then attributed to language punning while still communicating an urgency to conceal transgressions the artist admitted to in his lyrics. Bilingual punning, according to Chan (2009) is a very common motivation for code-switching.

13. 쉿!I wasn't me, myself ! It was all my bad 열심히we be schemmin It shook my head Oh 쉿!잠깐만조용히 Oh 쉿!내가예민했어

Sik-k also exhibits unique code-switches in his song “Ring Ring”. Again, here we see the use of English in the chorus in order to carry the main thrust of the lyrics. However, this song uses repetition much more frequently than the previous song. This is in line with code-switching in K-POP, where there is a code-switch for a single word or repeated use of single word, as well as a repetition of a specific phrase for both stylistic purposes and to grab the attention of the audience (Chan 2009: 112). In examples fourteen and fifteen, we see this with the repetition of “ring ring” and “can I hit you up”. It is important to note the use of slang in the repeated phrase of “can I hit you up”, as it is a call to the authenticity argument.

14. It’s lit keep callin’ your phone ring ring ring ring ring ring ring

15. ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up

In addition to these two phrases, the artist also repeats “may I hit you up in the late night” multiple times throughout the course of the song, though only two examples are cited here. This is another example of the repetition of a whole English phrase to code-switch.

16. Woogie on and on May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah

17. why don’t you pick it up right now May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah

This song also exhibits much longer code-switches than the previous. Long blocks of lyrics are in one language followed by a block of an equal length in the second language, linked through the refrain. In this case, the structure of the song dictates many of the code-switches from English to Korean. In addition to following the structure, another function this serves is to reach a broader audience with lyrics that can be understood by both Korean-speaking and English-speaking audiences.

18. May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah 만약에네생각이난다면 전화할꺼니깐그냥받어 내가많은여자들이랑 만나고다니지는않았지만 다른여자들은 아마도밥맛이야 심장은뛰어서 너한테더가까이가 now I’m at the studio makin songs about you and me It’s lit keep callin’ your phone ring ring ring ring ring ring ring 네가만약네가나라면 나는나를잡아뒀어 딱하나하나말하면 널만나면서난달라졌어

This same use of blocks of lyrics in English that are then translated to Korean occurs in smaller segments as well. This is seen through example nineteen, which are direct translations of each other. These lyrics also function to reach the more global audience while still maintaining the local audience, as well as reinforcing the subcultural identity tied with the underground rapping scene in Korea, where crafting intricate rhymes using Korean is still highly valued.

19. I need you in my place In late night I need you in my place 네가필요해지금내곁에 나는정말네가필요해 지금내옆에

Conclusion

This paper aims to provide a general understanding of the cultural space that English occupies in South Korea, the functions of code-switching in music and Korean-English code-switching in Korean hip hop music. It does not claim to outline every motivation for code-switching in music as a whole or in the Korean hip hop sub-genre, nor does it claim to outline every function of code-switching in these contexts. In addition, this paper focuses almost exclusively on code-switching to English as a general language without exploring the implications of code-switching to African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) and the different motivations that may connected to these code-switches. For a more in depth look into the study of the globalization of AAVE and its interaction with Korean hip hop subculture, please turn to Globalization of African American Vernacular English in Popular Culture: Blinglishin Korean Hip Hop(Lee, J. S. 2011).

As observed through the analysis of Korean hip hop artist Sik-k’s lyrics sampled through two of his songs, there are many patterns of code-switching that are present across musical genres. Code-switches to English for a single word or repeated use of a single word, mixture of a single word and multiple word switches, and the duplicate use of a single phrase, is adopted for stylistic purposes, such as to achieve a rhyming affect or as simple attention-grabbers. Another very common pattern is the switch from Korean to English at the chorus, adding emphasis or salience to the chorus

Code-switches occur for those expressions whose meanings cannot be fully conveyed in both English and Korean, better known as having a lack of equivalence. In addition, English is used to create more informal, conversational speech and atmosphere, as well as to use slang and curse words that can be seen as markers of authenticity within a subculture genre. This is because subculture capital is tied to authenticity, and in music subcultures, authenticity is concerned with the organic representation of a subculture expressed through these code-switches for slang words or phrases.

The two languages of English and Korean also serve to separate out two viewpoints or a shift in perspective, as shown through the song “Somebody Else”. The structure of the song allows for the representing of the dual identity of the performer and the dual status of the music. However, this dual identity is different to the use described in Lee (2004), where young South Korean popular artists use English to exercise assertions of struggle with unsettled identities or assert a deviation from the mainstream.

Because of the status of Korean hip hop artists as compared to Korean popular artists known as “idols”, there is no real need for a code-switch from Korean to English to express assertions of sexuality, assertions of resistance toward South Korea’s societal norms, or resisting mainstream norms and values. Its status as a subculture already implies that the music is willing to challenge dominant representations and defines itself as distinct from mainstream norms and values. In addition, idols do not concern themselves with th authenticity tied to a subculture because they are not a subculture, but rather an expression of the mainstream and popular music.

In addition, the talk of drugs, alcohol, and sex in Korean hip hop songs is not taboo, and is actually relatively common, as expressed through “몸매”by Jay Park and Ugly Duck, “DAx4”by Simon Dominic, and “EatPrayFuck”by Dynamicduo. These hip hop artists have more freedom and discursive space to explore these topics, which is in direct opposition to their K-POP idol counterparts. K-POP idols and the music they create exhibits rapid mobility and deep connections to economic processes and the global perception of South Korea as a whole, which limits them to the topics they explore in their lyrics. This can be seen through the difference between songs produced by the same artist, Min Yoongi, in both contexts. His stage-name SUGA produces and raps in a Korean-idol group named BTS where his lyrics are more controlled, as opposed to the harsh lyrics that are critical of the mainstream produced in his mixtapes under the stage name AGUST D.

Further research is required to continue to grasp the full scope of code-switching from English to Korean in Korean hip hop. An interesting extension of this topic would be to explore those artists that straddle both Korean popular culture and Korean hip hop culture, like the artists SUGA and MINO who both rap and are part of idol groups, and how this affects their image in the mainstream and their acceptance into the Korean hip hop subculture.

Full Lyrics of Sik-k Songs

Somebody Else by Sik-k

날이해해줘한번만 Cause these bottles turned me To somebody else Pretty models turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me 제발날이해해줘한번만 Cause these haters turned me To somebody else Their behaviours turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me yeah

I can't understand myself too But please understand me baby 용서해주기힘든거다알아도 설명해줄수있었다면이미했지yeah Last night 그건내가아니였어 정신이없는밤이었어 계속멍이나때리고시계속시간만쳐다보다가 너가아닌사람앞인데도나는안도망갔어 And it was just few minutes She just trynna dance with me 내몸도같이움직일지 But 난널생각하고있지이미Uh I choose you, you between 계집 너랑있지않는시간은낭비지 알고있었는데생각할껄미리 생각해둘껄미리

날이해해줘한번만 Cause these bottles turned me to somebody else Pretty models turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me 제발날이해해줘한번만 Cause these haters turned me To somebody else Their behaviours turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me yeah

내가아니였어그순간에 내가아니였어어제밤엔 술을엄청마셨던거같애 주님을뵙고올정도로아멘 난책임감있잖아homie don't you know 한곡을또만들었어오늘도 사람들은나를알아봐야해 우리전부같이잘나가야해 쉿! I wasn't me, myself 쉿! It was all my bad 열심히we be schemmin It shook my head Oh 쉿! 잠깐만조용히 Oh 쉿! 내가예민했어 Homie blame it on me 화내서미안해정말로I'm sorry But you know me Yelows m.o.b Crew is everything for me

날이해해줘한번만 Cause these bottles turned me To somebody else Pretty models turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me 제발날이해해줘한번만 Cause these haters turned me To somebody else Their behaviours turned me To somebody else No no It wasn't me yeah

Ring Ring by Sik-K

Woogie on and on May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah 만약에네생각이난다면 전화할꺼니깐그냥받어 내가많은여자들이랑 만나고다니지는않았지만 다른여자들은 아마도밥맛이야 심장은뛰어서 너한테더가까이가 now I’m at the studio makin songs about you and me It’s lit keep callin’ your phone ring ring ring ring ring ring ring 네가만약네가나라면 나는나를잡아뒀어 딱하나하나말하면 널만나면서난달라졌어 May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah 만약에네생각이난다면 전화할꺼니깐그냥받어 ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up 네가만약내게억지로 맞춰주는게아니라면 우린먼가통하는게 많이있는것같아 침대에던져둔전화에 신경곤두세우느라 매일밤선잠 날알고난다음 유도제없으면힘든거알아 네가보고싶고 너도내게오고싶고 나센척하지만권력을 네게양도하고싶어 너의수저는변덕이심해 소금간미원간 넌금수저를제일 좋아라해허나 그저디퓨져같아 그의터보차안에 오늘나랑진짜 소셜네트워크해 빨리카택불러서와 너를원해 지금전화연결중이야쩜쩜쩜 립글로스만입술에 쩜쩜쩜바르고나와 May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah 만약에네생각이난다면 전화할꺼니깐그냥받어 ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up In day time I need you in my place In late night I need you in my place 네가필요해지금내곁에 나는정말네가필요해 지금내옆에 지금네폰이울고있잖아 why don’t you pick it up right now May I hit you up in late night yeah yeah 만약에네생각이난다면 전화할꺼니깐그냥받어 ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up ring ring ring ring ring ring Can I hit you up

Works Cited

Bentahila, A., and Davies, Eileen D. (1983). The syntax of Arabic-French code-switching. Lingua59: 301-30.

Chan, B.H.‐S. (2009), English in Hong Kong Cantopop: language choice, code‐switching and genre. World Englishes, 28: 107-129. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971X.2008.01572.x Chun, E. W. (2017). How to drop a name: Hybridity, purity, and the K-pop fan. Language in Society46(1), 57–76. Cambridge University Press.

Davies, E., & Bentahila, A. (2006). Code switching and the globalization of popular music: The case of North African rai and rap, Multilingua25(4), 367-392. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/10.1515/MULTI.2006.020

Davies, E., & Bentahila, A. (2008).Code switching as a poetic device: Examples from rai lyrics,

Language & Communication, Volume 28, Issue 1. 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2006.10.001.

Hare, S., & Baker, A. (2017). Keepin’ It Real: Authenticity, Commercialization, and the Media in Korean Hip Hop. SAGE Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017710294

Heller, M. (1998). Codeswitching: Anthropological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Isbell, D. S., & Stanley, A. M. (2018). Code-switching musicians: an exploratory study. Music Education Research20(2), 145–162. https://doiorg.proxy.lib.duke.edu/10.1080/14613808.2016.1238061

Kwon, M. (2017). Ring Ring. On H.A.L.F. Have A Little Fun. Seoul, South Korea: H1GHER MUSIC.

Kwon, M. (2017). Somebody Else. On H.A.L.F. Have A Little Fun. Seoul, South Korea: H1GHER MUSIC.

Lee, J. (2007). I’m the illest fucka’. English Today,23(2), 54-60

Lee, J. S. (2004). Linguistic hybridization in K-pop: Discourse of Self- Assertion and Resistance.World Englishes, 23(3): 429-450.

Lee, J. S. (2011). Globalization of African American Vernacular English in Popular Culture: Blinglishin Korean Hip Hop. English World-Wide English World-Wide A Journal of Varieties of English, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 1–23., doi:10.1075/eww.32.1.01lee.

Loureiro-Rodríguez, V., Moyna, M., & Robles, D. (2018). Hey, baby, ¿Qué Pasó?: Performing bilingual identities in Texan popular music. Language & Communication, Volume 60. 120-135.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2018.02.009.

Park, J. (2009). ‘English fever’ in South Korea: Its history and symptoms. English Today, 25(1), 50-5.

Park, J. S.-Y. (2009). The local construction of a global language: Ideologies of English in South Korea. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Park, T.K., & Kim, Y. (2019). A Brief History of Korean Hip-Hop. Vulture, www.vulture.com/2019/01/a-brief-history-of-korean-hip-hop.html.

McPhail, S. A. (2018). South Korea's linguistic tangle: English vs. Korean vs. Konglish. English Today, 34(1), 45-51.

doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/10.1017/S0266078417000244

Morelli, S. (2001). “Who is a dancing hero?” Rap, hip-hop, and dance in Korean popular culture. In Mitchell, T. (Ed.), Global noise: Rap and hip-hop outside the USA(pp. 248- 258). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. 

Mueller, M. (2010). The global and local functions of English in South Korea. International Journal of Foreign Studies, 2(2), 53-65.

Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual speech. A typology of code-switching. Oxford: Cambridge University Press.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social Motivations for Codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. New York: Oxford University Press.

Um, H.-K. (2013). The poetics of resistance and the politics of crossing borders: Korean hip-hop and ‘cultural reterritorialisation.’ Popular Music32(1), 51–64. Cambridge University Press.

Weinreich, U. (1953). Languages in contact, findings and problems. New York, NY: Linguistic Circle of New York.

157 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Tamil: A Language of the World

Currently, there are more than 66 million Tamil speakers in the world (Tamil Language). The Tamil language is primarily spoken in India, being the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu a