Words and meanings – decolonising dance-music terminology
MOT 37 cover

Hvordan referere

Bakka, E. (2023). Words and meanings – decolonising dance-music terminology. Musikk Og Tradisjon, 37. https://doi.org/10.52145/mot.v37i.2255


This article aims to identify and situate problems of dance and music terminology arising when we, as scholars in this field, write about a practice in another language than that spoken by the practitioners. This happens ever more often because English is rising to become a world language. In the first section of the article, a brief discussion of political argumentation regarding language hegemony outlines the context in which the problem arises, and the minimal room there is for any general language decolonisation. The second part of the article attempts to illustrate the problems arising from a linguistic perspective. Translation is about conveying the meaning of a word as it appears in each specific context. Then the one actual meaning suffices even if five more English words might be needed to give all the meanings. An academician investigating a phenomenon labelled by the word needs the whole range of meanings to understand how the word is situated in its language. The third, applied part discusses possible measures for achieving decolonisation, such as how one can navigate between a mother tongue and a hegemonic language. It asks if the many non-native users should have a say on the norms of academic English, discusses principles for borrowing terms between languages, and points to the need to analyse the different ranges of meanings carried by dance and music terms in any language. The article concludes with the argument that even modest measures such as these can bring more respect to languages. Language are tools for people to make sense of their surroundings and culture, just as is the research of traditional music and dance. By strengthening their esteem, we increase the stringency of our research and support them in a world mostly politically barren to language diversity.
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Opphavsrett 2023 Egil Bakka