Who’s an Eastender now? Migration and the transformation of the Cockney dialect. Talk given at the TEDxEastEnd public event on Society Beyond Borders, 8/09/11, London, United Kingdom

Activity: Talk or presentationPublic lecture


It’s a few weeks now since the August riots, and the news moves on. But crucial issues have come to the fore and demand a response. In this talk I’m going to show how a socially-informed linguistics can help us to understand what went on a little better. This is not the place I would have chosen to start from, after the riots, but it provides a powerful springboard for this talk. Language in London has been a political issue for a long time, not least because of rows about funding English language support in schools, and – earlier on – the absence of funding in support of children’s first languages. In any one borough of inner London, there are at least 100 different languages spoken by children in the schools, with a total of around 300 across the capital. But then, suddenly, language became part of the public discourse about the riots. On Newsnight on 13th August, the historian David Starkey said the following, as part of his analysis of the riots in London: The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion, and black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together, this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England, and that is why so many of us have this sense of, literally, a foreign country. The rest of the talk deconstructs this statement.
Period8 Sept 2011
Event titleTEDxEastEnd public event on Society Beyond Borders
Event typeOther
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map


  • Multicultural London English
  • London riots 2011