A Cognitive Semantics Analysis of Fulstop and Valentine Taarab Songs by Khadija Kopa and Mzee Yusuf

By Ntabo, Victor Ondara | International Journal of Psychology Research, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

A Cognitive Semantics Analysis of Fulstop and Valentine Taarab Songs by Khadija Kopa and Mzee Yusuf


Ntabo, Victor Ondara, International Journal of Psychology Research


1.INTRODUCTION

The paper is based on Cognitive Semantics (CS) which is a branch of Cognitive Linguistics (CL). CL is an interdisciplinary study into language, the mind and socio-cultural experience (Evans, 2007). CS borrows from the nexus provided in CL among language, the mind and socio-cultural experience by stating that meanings are represented in peoples' mind in a configuration that has its unique rules (Croft & Cruse, 2004). This implies that meaning is a mental activity. Furthermore, CS posits that the meaning of words and other linguistic units is inseparably related to the hearer's memory and experience (Evans and Green, 2006). Thus, meaning is not located in the actual world but in our heads. CL was developed in protest to the formal approaches to linguistics which treated metaphor, analogy and metonymy as deviant linguistic phenomena (Palinkas, 2006). Therefore, Fauconnier and Turner (2002) developed a framework of explaining linguistic concepts like metaphor. The paper seeks to examine the interplay of the mind, language and socio-cultural experiences to reveal the meaning of the metaphors in selected taarab songs.

Taarab is derived from the Arabic word tarabun which means joy, pleasure, delight, entertainment and music (Askew, 2002). Taarab has been the widely played musical style in Zanzibar Island, the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania since the 1900s (Hoyem, 2009). Hoyem notes that taarab is rooted in African (mainly East African), Arabic, European and Indian music. Kaula (2015) points out that taarab is primarily associated with the beauty of the voice and the impact of the words. Taarab was initially played for Sultan Seyyid Barghash Bin Said (1870 -1888) of Zanzibar. The Sultan introduced taarab in Zanzibar Island and it was later popularized by the prominent singer from Zanzibar, Siti Binti Saad.

Topp (1992) identifies three categories of taarab songs. One, Orchestra type which is based on the Egyptian forms of urban music. It mostly served the elite in society especially the ruling class and the affluent. Second, Kidumbak, which is a counter style to Orchestra. Kidumbak is modeled on local ngoma. The emergence of Kidumbak was motivated by politics of exclusion and economic marginalization. The third type is Taarab ya wanawake (women's taarab), which leans aesthetically towards orchestra but dwells more on Swahili-zation of taarab. (Topp, 2000 & Khamis, 2005) also point out that there is also Modern taarab in which known taarab songs are remixed and given new lyrics. Modern taarab is performed by a large choir for a big audience often in dance halls. Topp (2014) notes that taarab is performed for entertainment at wedding ceremonies, official functions and festive occasions especially along the Kiswahili coast of East Africa.

The motivation for a Cognitive Semantics analysis of selected taarab songs is due to the fact that taarab is the art of figurative language (Khamis, 2005). Khamis further observes that taarab composers use metaphors to express the messages of love, sexuality, praise, hate, competition and cynicism. Although some fans take the bride to infer the meaning of the metaphors used (Kaula, 2015), other fans may find the songs complicated and malicious. This paper, therefore, uses the Cognitive Semantics framework to evaluate the metaphors used.

The conceptualization of metaphors in selected taarab songs is the main focus of the study. The word metaphor comes from the two Latin words meta which implies over or across and pherein that stands for to transfer or to carry beyond (Glucksberg, 2001). Metaphor, therefore, is a cognitive activity which helps in understanding one thing in terms of another (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). It plays a vital role in human thought, understanding, and reasoning and also, in the creation of our social, cultural, and psychological reality (Kövecses, 2002). In addition, metaphors is a linguistic concept (Faoconnier & Turner, 2002) which is primarily conceptual, universal and conventionally part of ordinary system of thought that is not limited to poetic language alone (Croft & Cruse, 2004). …

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