08 July 2006

piloklok @ weltmeisterschaft

Just got back from a tour of Europe covering the FIFA world cup for piloklok. You'd figure that with such a confluence of cultures, and me wandering a foreign country, there'd be a few linguistic tidbits to share. Indeed there were.

For the phonologically minded, there is the matter of a song a heard sung on the streets of Nuremberg (in front of Pizza Hut on Königstrasse) by Ghana fans following their team's 2-1 defeat of the US. To the tune of "If you're happy and you know it":

If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)
If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)
If you're happy and you know it
and you really want to show it
If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)

Not a compelling composition, but what sticks out is how the song forces primary stress on to the final syllable in Ghana. Look at the folowing scan, where each (foot) is a trochee (i.e., strong-weak):

(if you're)(happy)(for gha)(na: )(say gha)(na: )

Assuming primary stress usually occurs on the first syllable in the name Ghana, the scansion of the song forces it to move. Now, I'm only certain of stress placement in the country's name as spoken in English, an official language of Ghana. Some other widely-spoken languages of Ghana include Akan, Ewe, and Dagbar, but I don't know whether the name of the country as spoken in those or any of the other dozens of Ghanian languages has initial or final stress. (So the story might be that final stress makes the scan available, rather than that the scan forces a movement of stress from initial to final position).

Anyway, stress movement like this does happen in song, and there may be a term for it, but I either never learned it or forgot it. Meanwhile, I doubt this song is a standard for Ghana fans. They'd later lose to Brazil in the tournament, the last of 4 consecutive undermatched opponents for the Brazilians to face.

Another example of a stress shift shows up in an apparently more standard song sung for Dutch star Ruud van Nistelrooij (or Nistelrooy), to the tune of "Yellow Sumbarine" (where Ruud van = Yellow and Nistelrooy = Submarine). As with the languages of Ghana, I'm not confident about Dutch stress, but I do presume primary stress on Nistelrooy to appear on the initial syllable. But in the song, the lyric forces a shift of primary stress to the final (parallel to submarine). The Dutch also lost in the round of 16, so the moral is, if you want to win, leave stress where it is.


At Mon Jul 10, 07:13:00 PM 2006, Blogger Neal said...

It also happens in "Elmo's Song." At one point, Big Bird, whose name is usually pronounced with primary stress on Bird, sings a verse:

La-LA la-LA,
La-LA la-LA,
BIG Bird's song (repeat)

At Mon Jul 10, 08:58:00 PM 2006, Blogger Bob Kennedy said...

I haven't watched Sesame St. in decades ... for some reason I assumed Big Bird usually has initial stress, but I could easily have misremembered. I couldn't find any footage on pbs.org, Youtube, or Google video to elucidate, so I may have to watch the real thing tomorrow morning.

But the effect of song rhythm forcing stress shift is pretty prevalent, and probably always has been. I might have to start carrying a notebook to jot down every time I hear it.


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