Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The forces of nang

Nope, that's not the title of a new episode of Star Wars, but part of the contemporary East London dialect that is strongly influenced by Bangladeshi language forms. Forget how they talk in EastEnders, that's a thing of the past - or at least a matter of migration into Essex. This is dialect change in action, and we know what we know about it because Dr Sue Fox spent nine months exploring the language use of young people at a Tower Hamlets youth club. Now that's what I call a language investigation!

The research itself is fascinating, showing as it does that this is not a dialect used solely by young people with a Bangladeshi background, but also by young white people in the area. It also identifies really interesting gender differences in this dialect use.

But what's also interesting is the way that this news has been reported, red and black tops alike, focusing on Cockney in an almost elegaic way, mourning its death as if glottal stops and dropped aitches were the last word in linguistic beauty. Just a bit of backward-looking nostalgic fondness for cheeky chappies and Pearly Queens? A game for journalists during the news doldrums, to see who can score the highest rhyming slang count? Or racist bullshit?

Forgive my language here, but the Telegraph really has plumbed new depths. Look at this: "The cockney sparrow accent is being chased out of its spiritual home in the East End of London by young people who copy the voices of Bangladeshi immigrants, research has claimed." The language use of white older working class people is represented as a small cheery songbird, one that is the victim of slavish young followers of a dangerous predatory interloper. Using the highly emotive phrase "spiritual home" make it sound as though this is all part of some jihadi mission. And I'll ask her when I see her, but I am absolutely certain that Sue Fox's research did not claim either of those things.

Bangney new voice of the East End

East End Cockney accent fading

Cockney takes on a new sound


Post a Comment

<< Home