'Jafaican' is wiping out inner-city English accents

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from the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=382734&in_page_id=1770&in_page_id=1770&expand=true#StartComments

If you struggle to understand Cockney, Brummie, Geordie and Scouse, then stand by for an even bigger challenge.
It's called Jafaican and, slowly but surely, it is infiltrating the English language.

The multicultural hybrid, based on Jamaican but with undertones of West African and Indian, is not a totally new concept, of course. Ali G has been delivering his comic routines in his own colourful variant of it for some years.

But linguistic experts say it is becoming so common in the inner cities that it is beginning to eclipse traditional accents.

In some London boroughs, for instance, it has taken over from Cockney, the prevailing accent for generations, as inner-city white youths pick up the speech patterns of their black and Asian classmates. More than four out of ten London residents are now from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The Jafaican name, conveying the idea of 'fake Jamaican', was coined on the streets rather than in the research rooms. The academics prefer 'multicultural English'. But the message is constant.

"People are beginning to sound the same regardless of their colour or ethnic background," said Sue Fox, of London University's Queen Mary College, who is studying the phenomenon.

She ruled out suggestions that the language is simply the result of white youngsters trying to be cool.

"It's not about that at all," she said.

"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."

Miss Fox and co-researchers from Lancaster University are analysing the speech patterns of dozens of teenagers at colleges in inner and outer London.

Youngsters have been interviewed and observed talking to their friends over a ten-month period.

What has emerged is a distinctive inner-London patois which borrows heavily from Jamaican creole, lifting some words unchanged.

But it has been influenced by other speech patterns, mainly Bangladeshi and West African, with a little South American and Arab thrown in.

An analysis of vowel sounds has shown the traditional long Cockney vowels are becoming shorter. The word 'face' sounds like 'fice' in cockney but more like 'fehs' in Jafaican.

"Our sample includes teenagers with West Indian, South American, Arab, West African and London backgrounds," said Miss Fox.

"In London in the post-war years lots of white working-class Cockney families moved out to satellite towns such as Basildon and Harlow. In their place, we have got this huge mix of different ethnic groups."

While the study is currently focussed on London, Miss Fox believes a similar pattern will be emerging in other cities.

In Bristol recently, police used Ali G-style patois on placards warning young people to curb their antisocial behaviour. They insisted they were merely reflecting the language of target groups.

Add your comment Reader comments (20)

20 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below.

I sense that we are all struggling with this one!

- Mr. J. Smith, Birmingham, England

I can't bear to listen to kids talking like this.

- L Dixon, Cambridge, England

Given that I suspect very few of us understand Latin and that was a major language here many centuries ago the changes in our language are relatively gradual (and subject to age!), the biggest language issue it seems to me is "governospeak" having just received a tax return. I think a study into this socially destructive linguistic trend should be instigated

- John Graham, london Uk

Isn't this just "Chavspeak"? it can be heard in Macdonalds or in Matalan in any town, not just London.

- Peter North, London, England

I find the comparison with the rich and colourful Cockney accent repulsive.

Only a moron would use the term 'bitch' to refer to a girlfriend and only females with no self-respect would permit such a revolting term to be applied to them.

- Tim, Leeds, UK

Anything is an improvement over Cockney! Ya mon.

- John Williams, Helena, Montana

Certainly this virus like pattern has great implications for other areas, such as America, where the youth are wont to such jibberish as "yo" and "aureeta". This could be the tipping point in terms of etomological destruction, as it were. Frankly, the inclusion of silly jargons is a threat to the sophistication of the post modern world speak insomuch that our leaders must demand stiff penalties akin to antisocial behaviour measures. However I will add, to my chagrin, that while watching the tele this fellow Ali G has put a stich in my side. Quite troubling for society really.

- K. Z. Maaskube, Surrey

English is being changed the world over - it is so sad.

- Jason A. Edwards, Bound Brook, NJ

Language isn't static, and "kids" have been using language as a method of rebellion and badge of identity for several generations-this is not new.

Stop wringing your hands in a fit of snobbery, it's quite repulsive.

- James, Chicago, IL

The first law of linguistics is that all languages change.

You can predict the trajectory of that change by studying the dynamics of past changes, observing the current trends of cultural migration from country to country and within countries and applying your observations to the newly emerging cultural mix.

Is there anything that can be done?

It is being done. Unlike the past, when no force under heaven could stop the evolution of language, we have a rapidly expanding information society today. Because of the increasing interconnectedness of the earth, a standardized language is coming.

This language will include some form of English. The French are out of luck. Napoleon is still dead. In a few generations large numbers of Chinese will teach their children English just to get in on the information revolution.

The loss of individuality that comes from the loss of the many languages and their distinct cultures proceeds. I'm not for it or against it. It's just happening.

- Anon, Charleston, WV, USA

Saying that something isn't true-i.e., the researcher denying that kids are picking up the accent just to be cool--doesn't "rule it out". It's just the researcher's opinion.

- Chris, Pittsburgh, USA

We experience the same thing here in American culture. I am noticing it all over. Much of it has to do with the media and the trend towards rap music. My wife and I are constantly teaching our children proper grammar and pronunciation (especailly after my 6 year old daughter came home from school stating that her teacher says "dawg" in the classroom.

- Edward Poniatowski, Jacksonville, USA

It's not a language, but nonsense, it goes with the rubbish noise they call music and with the boy racers who listen to the foul stuff and have it blaring out of their pathetic cars. If they want to speak like that, why don't they go and live in the West Indies? Answer, the West Indies wouldn't want them. They are stupid, useless fools who think they are clever!

- Nigel, Somerset

I have better things to worry about then how a bunch of teenyboppers in England speak.

I am sure once it becomes more in vogue to the youngins to speak cockney they will bend it like Beckham backwards back to a nice limey lilt again.

Tea and crumpets and all that jazz.

I am sure Bob Marley would smile.

- Melissa Hastings, San Jose, CA USA

Unfortunately for those young people wanting to sound "cool", adopting this "language" will probably prevent their ever attaining high-level employment. A similar phenomenon is occurring in the US.

- Don Scott, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

The real problem here is the inability to communicate between generations in the accepted, documented, traditional English language where words actually mean things. Languages certainly evolve and accept influences of the times; however, they must maintain the rules of grammar and the traditional meanings of words. Like a lawless society will eventually collapse, so will the language.

Nobody is calling for the elimination of current cultural influences. Instead, I hear a cry for protecting that which exists first, and allowing the slang to exist in parallel. Without this, failure will follow.

- Kurt, Minneapolis, MN

Wassup geeza? Wassup wit me spekin like dis? I is growed up in London innit wit me homies and bea-acchhies? I spek proa like ruude boi!

I rest my case!

- Abi, Shropshire

I have to agree proper English is an issue in the US. I was speaking to a co-worker and she actually interrupted me to tell me she usually doesn't understand half of what I'm saying. I wasn't using any type of slang, just proper English. I wonder how long it will be until those of us with a solid English vocabulary will be regarded as an incomprehensible minority.

- Tony, Middlesex, USA

This strikes me as an example of intellectual laziness. Those fortunate to go to a decent school and Uni in the UK once benefited from a stringent, disciplined education. Now it appears UK youth are as blinded by the flashing lights as their lazy US counterparts. Too bad. The UK is showing the US the way to economic decline, and the US is showing the UK the way to cultural decline. It's a race to the bottom.

- JS, Portland, OR, USA

There's no such thing as 'proper' English. Even the widespread middle class and posh way of speaking is relatively new (100-150 yrs)

Nee matter weer thoo gaaz all ower't cunntree, we awl soond diffrunt!

- Gary, Whitehaven, Cumbria




'Jafaican' is wiping out inner-city English accents
 
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