Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, United Kingdom
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Linguistic innovators: the English of adolescents in London


Summary: This project is a study of the spoken English of London, the first to be undertaken for some time and the first taking full and explicit account of the diversity of London's population and its social and geographical mobility.

Key Facts


Funder: ESRC

Type of Activity: Academic Research - Externally Funded

Principal Investigator: Paul Kerswill

Co-investigator: Jenny Cheshire (external)

Researchers: Sue Fox (external), Eivind Torgersen

Dept/Research Groups: Linguistics and English Language, Language Variation and Linguistic Theory (LVLT)

Partner: Queen Mary, University of London

Keywords: Language variation and change, Grammar, Sociolinguistics, Sociophonetics, Syntax, Morphology, Adolescent

Project Description

London is said to be the source of linguistic innovation in Britain in pronunciation and grammar. Quantitative sociolinguistic research in the southeast centres outside London, and notes great dialect levelling (homogenisation), with features apparently diffusing from London. London has not yet seen a systematic sociolinguistic study, and we will remedy this. Our study takes account of (1) London's massive multilingualism; (2) linguistic innovation in adolescence; (3) the effect of a 'multiracial vernacular' among young Londoners on mainstream speech; (4) differences in ethnic makeup, mobility and networks between inner and outer London, resulting in differences in capacity to innovate and spread linguistic features. We sample 72 16-19 year olds in two boroughs, using quantitative and qualitative methods to find explanations for their speech patterns. We seek the origins of linguistic change in London's complex social mix, thus gaining a critical understanding of levelling in Britain.

Our Partners

Queen Mary, University of London

Purpose of Research

Academic Research - Externally Funded

Project Funder

ESRC - £278,996