Hip-Hop youth and the (re)negotiation of language and identity in Norway (Unn Røyneland, 9/4/2014)

Increasing resentment towards multiculturalism, fueled by sentiments of fear and anger, has intensified the struggle for belonging and identity among the mixed and diverse populations of Europe. This paper considers Hip Hop performances by Oslo youth of immigrant backgrounds in the context of this struggle.

Recent work on language and identity among urban youth in Norway suggests that Hip Hop plays a decisive role in the creation, formation and enregisterment of multiethnolectal urban speech styles (Agha 2005; Brunstad, Røyneland & Opsahl 2010). A similar phenomenon has been documented among Eastern European immigrants and Latino youth in New York City (Cutler 2008; Slomanson & Newman 2004).

Drawing on these studies we argue that immigrants as well as native-born youth are drawn to Hip Hop’s oppositional symbolism and use language in ways that challenge hegemonic language ideologies (Cutler & Røyneland 2014). We show that such heteroglossic language practices function as a means for hip-hop-affiliated youth to differentiate themselves from others, to signal social and discursive stances, and as a way to resist and transform traditional social and ethnic categories.


  • Agha, A. 2005.  Voice, footing, enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 15 (1): 38-59.
  • Brunstad, E., U. Røyneland and T. Opsahl 2010. Hip Hop, ethnicity and linguistic practice in rural and urban Norway. In M. Terkourafi (ed.), The Languages of Global Hip Hop.London: Continuum. 223-255.
  • Cutler, C. 2008. Brooklyn style: Hip-hop markers and racial affiliation among European immigrants in New York City. International Journal of Bilingualism, 12(1-2): 7-24.
  • Cutler, C. & U. Røyneland 2014 (in press). Where the Fuck Am I From? Hip-Hop Youth and the (Re)Negotiation of Language and Identity in Norway and the US. In Nortier, J. & B. Svendsen (eds.) Urban Youth Language in Late Modern Europe and Beyond.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Slomanson, P. and M. Newman 2004. Peer group identification and variation in New York Latino English laterals. English World-Wide, 25(2): 199-216.

Unn Røyneland

Unn Røyneland works at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies (University of Oslo) within the fields of socio- linguistics and dialectology. She is interested in dialect and language contact, youth language and language change. In her research she has particularly focussed on dialect use and dialect leveling among adolescents.