Linguistic Innovators: The English of Adolescents in London Lancaster University Home Page
Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, United Kingdom
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Project funded by the ESRC (grant RES-000-23-0680).

The project runs from October 2004 to September 2007.

Principal investigator: Paul Kerswill
Jenny Cheshire

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.

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