Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Slang: bare swag or just repping your endz?

In a thorough, well-researched and rather splendid article in The Independent, youth slang in London gets some extended coverage. Those of you who like these kinds of things - slang, "Jafaican", multi-ethnic youth dialect (MEYD) and the changing nature of London's language - might remember that Sue Fox did a talk in college earlier this year on Tower Hamlets accents changing as a result of the influence of Bangladeshi young people, and this article picks up on her and Paul Kerwill's latest research as part of Linguistics Innovators: The Language of Adolescents in London.

The article covers what MLE(Multicultural London English)/MEYD is, how it is developing and how it's being viewed by teachers, politicians and (most importantly) the users of it. In one section, Fox looks at the ways in which this variety of English is represented in the media and how she views it:
"The term Jafaican gives the impression that there's something fake about the dialect, which we would refute," she says. "As one young girl who lives in outer London said of her eight-year-old cousin who lives in inner London, 'People say he speaks like a black boy, but he just speaks like a London boy.' The message is that people are beginning to sound the same regardless of their colour or ethnic background. So we prefer to use the term Multicultural London English (MLE). It's perhaps not as catchy," she says, "but it comes closer to what we're trying to describe."

Elsewhere, Kerswill explores the social factors that influence whether or not young people continue to use the language as they grow older:
"We don't quite know whether kids will un-acquire MLE as fast as they've picked it up," concedes Kerswill. "The indications are that it depends very much on people's social networks and aspirations. Those who go into university or highly-paid jobs will change their speech. Those who remain where they are will most likely retain a lot of it. Most people are doubtless somewhere in the middle, and will change to some extent. But that will open the way for MLE to lead to changes in the English language in its spoken form, at least. One conclusion that we have definitely drawn from this study," he concludes, "is that English is one of the most dynamically protean of all languages."

All in all, it's a top read so have a look...

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change & Varieties

5 comments:

Fran said...

"Those who go into university or
highly-paid jobs will change their speech."

Not necessarily...I just started uni and I've noticed that many people not only understand my South London dialect but use most of the same speech Londoners do. Granted, I'm sure that in a job interview RP will come spewing out of their middle class mouths but in lectures or at the bar this is not the case. Not here anyway...
Francesca Andrews (ex-SFX student/Mr Clayton survivor, Lol)

Dan said...

Hi Francesca, hope it's fun out there in the sticks! Maybe where you are is close enough to south London to share many of the same features, or maybe it's just that the youth dialect has really spread like the researchers claim. Perhaps they use it around you to impress you ...a bit like me with my rather shaky and embarrassing grasp of youth slang in Eng Lang lessons ;-)

I hear classy clothing retailers are looking for ex-SFX students with good references!

Fran said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fran said...

To tell you the truth they probably are out to impress, as they seem to feel the need to add a bit of "street cred" into their lives.
Reciting 50 Cent lyrics does not a gansta make. Nor does asking me to show them the lastest dance moves when i dare venture into the student union.

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side...

I have no idea what you wrote them but my manager seems to think i bribed you into saying good things. So thank you very much! However i am slightly offended that she was so taken aback about hearing nice things about me...Lol. It's only a christmas temp position in men's ware, and it beats working in McDonald's.

Hope all is well in SFX land, and tell any budding pschologists if they want a first hand account of what it's like studying psy at degree level, i'm free to e-mail them some advice.

Although people don't tend to listen to good advice. Take me for instance, i stayed up until 6am to hand in an essay of 2000 words that afternoon and was told "start reading earlier and it'll make your life so much easier". well, i've had my books sitting on my desk for the past 2 weeks and now i've just realised that my next essay is due in this wednesday...it looks like many more late nighters are on the horizon for me this week!

Dan said...

Oh, it wasn't that glowing a reference. I just said that you'd be happy to pay your tax and National Insurance directly to me.

I'll email you soon.