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

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