Friday, May 26, 2006

Londonstani

With all the recent media coverage of Sue Fox's research focusing on the made-up term "Jafaikan" and the Caribbean influence on English slang and youth dialect, it's easy to forget that most of her research started off looking at the Asian influence on Cockney in Tower Hamlets. A recent book by Gautam Malkani called Londonstani is written in what sounds like a form of the Multi Ethnic Youth Dialect that Sue has researched, and it's been widely talked about (a bit like the film Kidulthood) not just for its violent and disturbing plot, but for its grasp of the "real" sounds of speech from the street.

So how does it sound? Here's an extract as quoted in The Guardian's review of the book: "your glasses r so smashed up u can't count? Shud've gone 2 Specsavers, innit. How many a us bredren b here?".

So, does it sound genuine or not? Depends what you hear around you and how successfully you think Malkani has translated this into prose on the page. He's certainly not the first to attempt to convey dialect and accent on the page; as an article by Pete Bunten in the latest E Magazine explains, writers like Charles Dickens and D.H. Lawrence have used regional varieties to flesh out their characters' voices and identities, while more recently Scottish writers Irvine Welsh and James Kelman have used the voices of working class Scots to tell their complicated tales of drug addiction, alcoholism and dead-end lives.

A couple of reviews in The Guardian and Telegraph take differing positions on the novel and are linked here for you to look at. In terms of the usefulness of this for A Level study, ENA5 asks you to look at both change and varieties, so anything on emerging new dialects covers both topic areas, while ENA6 is all about language debates - issues around language that cause discussion or argument - so this could easily be part of that debate. For Lang and Lit students, it's perhaps helpful too to study the ways in which writers try to mimic spoken language in their prose style and the various technique sthey employ to capture the spoken voice.

No comments: