Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"Crappy patois"

Yesterday's Evening Standard carried an op-ed by Henry Hitchings on the nature of changing London English. It's partly a response to Charles Moore's attack on changing English in the Telegraph and partly an advertisement for Hitchings' new book, which we mentioned on here yesterday.

Interestingly, Hitchings makes much of what linguists have called Multicultural London English, Multi-ethnic Youth Dialect, or what some journalists have called "Jafaican", which, as Hitchings points out, tends to cast it as an affectation or a fake dialect, rather than " an authentic, organic variety of English and it looks likely to become more prevalent". We've featured MEYD and MLE here on many occasions and if you click on the tabs at the bottom of this post you'll get some links to the research done by Sue Fox, Paul Kerswill, Jenny Cheshire (and others) into this fascinating area of sociolinguistics.

Sadly, anything about language change tends to aggravate those who see all change as a foul corruption of our beautiful tongue, or even (in the case of the Evening Standard article), deranged anti-Jamaican troglodytes who argue (or sneer, perhaps more accurately) that it's a "crappy patois" "derived from some of the most pointless countries in the world", and speaking it is likely to limit young people's life chances. Well, yes, but only if they speak it as their only variety, which is generally not the case, as Hitchings is at pains to point out. But why let a bit of reasoned argument get in the way of a good dose of prejudice?

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