Language and Ethnicity

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  • Ethnicity = cultural identity, based on factors such as family heritage, language variations, cultural beliefs. (So you can be English but part of an Afro-Caribbean ethnic group.)
    • MLE
      • Kerswill suggests this dialect, which rose from areas in East London suffering social deprivation, is to distinguish its users from those with better chances in life.
        • Kerswill believes Cockney is being taken over by the multilingual, multi-ethnic inner city (largely due to immigration). MLE is used by teenagers of lots of ethnic backgrounds, who see it as theirs, use it (for example, Londoners talk about their "endz" which derived from the Caribbean) but can't in itself erase ethnic differences as a factor. It is a genuine influence on our language.
      • It is given a negative reputation, especially from the media, such as Sacha Cohen's character "Ali G" who is portrayed as idiotic, rude and try-hard, as suppose to dialects like Cockney Rhyming Slang which are positively represented by Only Fools and Horses character Del-boy.
      • Features - "dem" to mark plurality (e.g. man dem means men), innit, you get me,  bare (meaning very), sick (meaning good), nuff (meaning really).
      • Sue Fox -"It seems more likely that young people have been growing up in London exposed to a mixture of second-language English and local London English and that this new variety has emerged from that mix." - not trying to be cool
      • Negative attitudes - lacking intelligence, low social class, not proper English
    • Black English
      • In the 1940s, people began to immigrate from the Caribbean to places like London. English had already been an influence on the creole there due to slavery. In the 1960s and 70s Jamaican-English children began to mix with white working class children in school.
      • Features of Jamaican creole include the pronouns "mi" and "dem", "naa" instead of "no", adjectives used as verbs, the continuative particle "a" to form the present continous tense ("I'm a go"), double negatives, "th" pronounced as "d" and unmarked plurality.
      • It has had a lot of publicity in the media, like Benjamin Zephaniah, The Times' top 50 post-war writers after 2008, who writes black English semi phonetically ("yuhself" for "yourself")
      • Maria Manning - children of multiple ethnic backgrounds use Black English as slang because its emphatic style gives it immediate effect and forcefulness suited to the hard, fast life of city kids.
        • It is also a rebellion against Standard English and its associations due to feelings of exclusion from the mythical "British culture" enshrined in SE.
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      • John McWhorter (professor at Columbia University) suggests that people who dismiss Black English as gutter speak miss that is distinguishes itself by using grammar and specific sounds and intonations.
      • Walt Wolfram - Argues that there is as much social and regional variety in the African American community as there is in the white population. Societal norms result in the generalization of certain ethnic groups. He thinks it's important children perceive it like other languages to reduce prejudice.
    • Bradford Asian English
      • Gary Ives conducted a study of a group of teenagers from a Bradford school, 95% of whom came from a Mirupuri Pakistani background.
        • He found they referred to themselves as Bradford Asians and mixed English and Punjabi. Their language excluded others like their parents (whom to which they code-switched) and  depended on their postcode, so even other Pakistani teenagers couldn't understand them. It was influenced by their Mirupuri heritage but also media. They created a social identity.
    • A pidgin is the first-generation version of a language that forms between native speakers of different languages.
      • A creole/patois is a pidgin with native speakers or one that has been passed down a second generation of speakers who formalise it with grammar and syntax.
        • Viv Edwards - people won't let their children use it to them because it is unseemly to speak in a familiar way to your parents and it is has undesirable connotations of slavery, poverty and a lack of education.
        • David Starkey says that white people are adopting stereo typically "black" culture with gangs and violence and using Jamaican patois.
        • Creole is widely seen as cool, tough and good to use. It is associated with assertiveness, verbal resourcefulness, competence in heterosexual relationships, and opposition to authority.


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