Black English Researchers

Notes on the research of linguists into Black English - Ethnic Variation

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Mark Sebba

London Jamaican - 1990s

  • A particular variety that has evolved due to language needs of immigrant communities who have settled in England and produced 2nd/3rd/4th etc generation speakers

  • Sebba identified main choices of young, new-generation speakers born into London's Caribbean communities as being between Caribbean creole forms, Cockney forms summed up as 'London English', and SE/RP forms
  • Sebba defined London Jamaican as being a combination of phonological, lexical and grammatical elements of all three
  • Much of his research involved interviewing and recording the speech of young, British-born teenagers with Jamaican parents
  • Sebba comments on the continuum of SE --- Jamaican Creole and how speakers of both can code-switch between the two depending on the context
  • He also comments on socio-linguistic maturation in that older speakers of London Jamaican have begun to use a more standard form of English
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Sue Fox

'Multi-Ethnic Youth Dialect' - 2000s

  • focused on dialect of youths from a variety of diff ethnic backgrounds across London

  • Her findings suggest a variety of MEYD, which Fox has termed 'Multicultural London English', MLE, which has strong characteristics drawn from influences of  several other languages, creole + cultural sources
  • MLE is identified w/ by adolescent users in wider city environments of greater London, although also beginning to be used in Bristol + Birmingham
  • Fox found that speakers of the dialect are drawn from white, black + Asian communities
  • The emergence of MLE is viewed as a fully functioning dialect, which is rapidly changing
    --> pronunciation features adopted by its speakers may only remain current short term before being replaced 
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Maria Manning

Maria Manning

  • Manning found many children of diff ethnic backgrounds using BE as slang
  • She suggested two reasons for this:
    - the emphatic style of BE gives it a dynamic, forceful and immediate effect which is suited to the hard, fast life of city kids
    - BE gives them the chance to rebel against SE and all of the things which are associated with it, such as respectability, conformity, passing exams etc
  • Some white children will use BE because is 'speaks to them' as they may also feel excluded from the mythical 'British culture' enshrined in SE
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Viv Edwards

The West Indian Language in British Schools, 1970s

  • Edwards looked into attitudes of Afro-Caribbean parents towards their children speaking BE
  • She found that most young Afro-Caribbean speakers use a modified term of Creole, however they can diverge upwards towards ordinary English when necessary (Code-switching)
  • Many Afro-Caribbean parents speak creole to their children but refuse to allow their children to use it to them in return because
    a- they think it unseemly for children to speak in such a familiar way to their parents
    b- older West Indians are conscious of the undesirable associations that cling to creole: slavery, poverty, lack of education etc
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Roger Hewitt

Roger Hewitt

  • Hewitt found that dense creole is used strictly for men-talk
  • Girls tend to use SE with either a regional or modified RP accent
  • Men tend to speak more slang and taboo language
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Features of Jamaican Creole (Patois)

  • pronouns mi  and dem - different pronoun usage
  • adjectives used as verbs
  • fi before an infinitive
  • no in the form of naa instead of is not
  • the focusing particle a
  • patois possessive fi-dem (their)
  • the continuative particle a to form the present continuous tense: im a go 
  • seh  after stative verbs
  • different plural structures
  • code-switching
  • th  pronounced as d
  • double negatives
  • consonant strings/clusters simplified 
  • ending sounds missed
  • replaced sounds
  • sounds merge + converge
  • lack of plural + past tense markers
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