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English Mixing in the Lyrics of Mandarin Pop Songs in Taiwan: A Functional Approach

English Mixing in the Lyrics of Mandarin Pop Songs in Taiwan: A Functional Approach* Ben Pin-Yun Wang bensmiley720110@yahoo.com.tw

Abstract
This paper investigated the phenomenon of English mixing in the lyrics of Mandarin pop songs in Taiwan in terms of its linguistic functions. The results of textual analysis revealed the prominence of the expressive function of the mixed English lyrics. Due to the prevalent love-related themes in Mandarin pop music, English was most likely to be employed as a neutral code to express emotion and genuine feelings without the negative connotations attached to the corresponding Chinese equivalents. Moreover, the salient referential function of English lyrics in Mandarin pop reflected the impact of wide-spreading English pop culture through mass media that enabled the local lyricists to draw on a greater linguistic pool in creating the lyrics intended for the native audience in Taiwan. In contrast, the metalinguistic and poetic functions of English mixing, which involved more sophisticated types of language use such as wordplay, metaphors and literary quotations, were relatively less conspicuous in Mandarin pop. This finding might suggest that local lyricists as a whole have not yet attained the level of English proficiency for English usage that requires more refined language skills.

Keywords: English mixing, code-mixing, code-switching, linguistic function, pop music

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NCYU Inquiry of Applied Linguistics

The 2006 Issue

1. Introduction Pop music reflects the state-of-art development of a given culture and the lyrics in pop songs further reflect its popular culture, a subculture in a society pertaining to youngsters in particular. As pointed out by Longhurst (1995: 224) “the subcultures and communities from which music is often held to issue or which put it to use … have to be examined within language and communication.” Additionally, “it is the language of … lyrics that places the songs in a particular social setting” (Middleton 1990: 229). Therefore, it is believed that the study of language use in the lyrics of Mandarin pop songs would contribute to the understanding of the contemporary development of sociolinguistic setting in Taiwan Due to the globalization of music industry, English has been mixed into the lyrics of pop songs in many countries, especially those in East Asia. To examine the cultural impacts inherent in adopting English as an additional code in Japan, Moody (2000, 2001) and Moody and Matsumoto (2003) investigated the increasing importance of English in the lyrics of Japanese pop songs (J-pop). Moody (2001) further suggested several possible reasons for the prevalence of English lyrics in J-pop. First, perhaps lyricists attempt to use English lyrics to mimic English pop songs. Second, English words may be borrowed because they could convey ideas in which their Japanese equivalents are comparatively awkward or highly connotative. Third, the lyricists could employ English for the purpose of presenting a more stylized text in the CD notes. Finally, it is possible for the English mixing to raise the market value of the Japanese pop songs. Besides the studies of English impact on Japanese pop music, Jamie Lee (2004) also observed the prevalence and heterogeneity of English mixing in South Korean pop music (K-pop). The borrowing of English words in K-pop, according to Lee, is “preplanned, intentional code-switching with specific goals in songwriters’ and artists’ minds” (434). With regard to the functions of English

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English Mixing in the Lyrics of Mandarin Pop Songs in Taiwan: A Functional Approach

mixing in K-pop, they ranged from “a simple attention-getter for stylistic purposes to assertion of librated self and exercising freedom from speech” (446). Since the intelligibility of K-pop across different countries would be enhanced with the incorporation of...
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