SRPP: Sound-Meaning Mapping: Verbal Imitation of Super Mario Music by Yorùbá Gamers

Samuel Akinbo (University of Minnesota)
03 February 2023, 14h0015h30

This paper explores how Yorùbá gamers map lexical meaning to videogame music in their native language by focusing on an aspect of gaming culture in Yorùbá. Gaming culture among Yoruba millennials involves vocal imitating the music of the video game, Super Mario Bros. The themes of the linguistic interpretations are comparable to those of music texts at traditional Yoruba competitions. Drawing on the Yoruba music tradition, the account in this work is that, to the gamers, the background music of the video game performs a similar function as the music at traditional Yoruba competitions. The choice of words in the linguistic interpretation is conditioned by the situational contexts or scenes where the music is heard in the video game. The results of an acoustic analysis show that the choice of words in the linguistic interpretations is also determined by mapping the pitch trajectories of the music melodies to the tones of the gamers’ native language. This study suggests that the linguistic processing of music may not only involve phonetic iconicity but contextual inference and social expectation.