Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English.

Jenny Cheshire, Paul Kerswill, Susan Fox, Eivind Torgersen

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In Northern Europe’s major cities, new varieties of the host languages are emerging in the multilingual inner cities. While some analyse these ‘multiethnolects’ as youth styles, we take a variationist approach to an emerging ‘Multicultural London English’ (MLE), asking: (1) what features characterise MLE? (2) at what age(s) are they acquired? (3) is MLE vernacularised? (4) when did MLE emerge, and what factors enabled its emergence? We argue that innovations in the diphthongs and the quotative system are generated from the specific sociolinguistics of inner-city London, where at least half the population is undergoing group second-language acquisition and where high linguistic diversity leads to a feature pool to select from. We look for incrementation (Labov) in the acquisition of the features, but find this only for two ‘global’ changes, BE LIKE and GOOSE-fronting, for which adolescents show the highest usage. Community-internal factors explain the age-related variation in the remaining features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151–196
Number of pages46
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

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