flyting and rap

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 5 20:50:08 UTC 2009

At 12:03 PM -0800 1/5/09, Dave Wilton wrote:
>Flyting is certainly more strongly associated with Old Norse literature than
>with either English or Scottish. The "Lokasenna," or "Flyting of Loki" is
>one famous example from the Poetic Edda that appears in the Codex Regius,
>copied c.1270.
>Fewer examples appear in Old English literature than in medieval Scottish,
>although there is a description of an episode of flyting in "Beowulf." So
>the flyting tradition in the British Isles is more strongly associated with
>Scotland than with England.
>Others on the list are more expert in the subject than I, but as I
>understand it, some linguists point to the Scotch-Irish dialect of slave
>owners and overseers as a stronger influence on African-American speech than
>African speech patterns. This could be where Szasz, cited in the Telegraph
>article, is coming from.
>I'm somewhat skeptical of the link. I think it more likely that the rap
>tradition developed independently and recently. After all, insulting one's
>friends in a witty manner is a pretty universal custom.

Not to cry Wolof, but...
I seem to recall there's a related practice in African oral
discourse, at least in East Africa, although I grant that
ascertaining a West African tradition would be more relevant.  Anyone


>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>Amy West
>Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 10:19 AM
>Subject: flyting and rap
>A museum colleague forwarded this link to me:
>I don't know much about rap's origins beyond the connection to
>playing the nines, but I'm skeptical of this claim based simply on
>the fact that there are probably (again I come up against my
>ignorance) many African analogues of flyting that are much more
>likely candidates for playing the nines ancestry.
>I know that there are Old English and Old Norse analogues as well, so
>why limit it to medieval Scotland?
>And the 1861 poem that is cited could easily be influenced by those
>OE and ON analogues as that's the time period for the rise of OE & ON
>philology (and there was plenty of use of medieval literature in that
>time period: a couple of colleagues have looked at the use of King
>Arthur in popular literature from both the Union and the Confederacy).
>Anyone more knowledgeable and better informed than me willing to weigh in?
>---Amy West
>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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