Multilingualism in Russian Popular Music Discourse

Author: Evgeniya Aleshinskaya (National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Moscow)
Speaker: Evgeniya Aleshinskaya
Topic: Language Contact and Change
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2021 General Session


Popular music breeds creative forms of hybridization that “seep” into the daily talk and lives of people, who pick up the use of language through engagement with popular forms of entertainment (Dovchin et al., 2018). In Russian popular music, hybridization includes various forms of mixing English as the global language with a high social prestige, Russian as the official language of the country, and other local languages like Tatar, Romani, Hebrew, Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, etc. Resources from different languages are appropriated by Russian-language speakers for certain purposes and gain various meanings, even if their knowledge of these languages is limited (truncated multilingualism in Blommaert, 2010). Sometimes it is not even necessary to know a language to understand the meaning it produces.

Drawing evidence from reviews in Russian musical journals, English-language song lyrics written by native Russian speakers, and multilingual performances in a popular TV show, the paper explores such blended ways of using languages as mixed professional jargon, a localized variety of Global English, and a new mode of interactivity – mixing languages and music as a form of expressing certain meanings. The data obtained with the help of discourse analysis were supplemented by ethnographic interviews with 10 professional musicians from Russia, performing in various musical genres.

Mixed professional jargon is based on abundant English terms in Russian phonetic, morphological and syntactic forms; its role is to facilitate communication and serve as a marker of professional identity. English in the song lyrics by non-native speakers is influenced by the grammatical, lexical and conceptual features of the Russian language. The textual analysis reveals the changes in vocabulary and grammar peculiar to the Russian and English languages in the context of globalization and fast exchange of information, while the contextual analysis sheds light on the social underpinnings behind these changes.

Multilingual performances containing various local languages are regarded as a response to the dominance of Global English, and are examined in terms of their meaning-making potential. Mixing different languages is shown to mark social identity, global or local affiliation, creative aspirations, and melodic and rhythmic compatibility of music and words.


Blommaert J. 2010. The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dovchin S., Pennycook A., Sultana S. 2018. Popular culture, voice and linguistic diversity: young adults on- and offline. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Keywords: Musical discourse, English, global, local, language mixing