August 24, 2005

Asian Voices in the UK

Voices is an ambitious BBC project that maps changes in regional accents and dialects in the UK. There's a wealth of material on the website, which includes over a thousand clips, links to many radio shows based on the BBC surveys, and a mini-site on the Asian Network, which deals with the languages of the Asian community. Here, you can contribute words to a Desi Dictionary or listen to Southall Punjabis talking about Pinglish, a cross between Punjabi and English. There's also a breakfast series called Out of English, which explores how Asian words are slipping into common English usage.

Elsewhere on the Voices site, there's an interesting article about the speech of the East End. I've written about Benglish earlier: the BBC's research shows that this dialect is replacing Cockney in parts of London.

Speaking in an interview for BBC Voices, Sue Fox, a socio-linguist at the Queen Mary College, University of London says that a new dialect is emerging to replace Cockney and that it's a mixture between English and Bangladeshi... Fox's findings are the result of her research into the way that Cockney is being influenced by the speech of Bangladeshi and other communities in Tower Hamlets. In the interview with the BBC Fox says: "This is very exciting for linguists - the language of London is changing. The majority of young people of school age are of Bangladeshi origin and this has had tremendous impact on the dialect spoken in the area.

"What I've actually found with the young people in Tower Hamlets is that they are using a variety of English which is not traditionally associated with cockney English - it's a variety that we might say is Bangladeshi-accented. And in turn what I've found is that some adolescents of white British origin are also using these features in their speech as well".
David Crystal sees this phenomenon repeating itself in cities across the UK, as foreign languages and regional dialects mix and influence each other:

For example, in Liverpool as well as the traditional Scouse accent you will hear distinct Caribbean-Scouse, African-Scouse as well as Indian-Scouse accents. In Cardiff I've heard a number of accent mixes that weren't previously heard before such as Cardiff-Arabic and Cardiff-Hindi. This pattern is repeating itself in many urban communities across the UK, people are especially keen to develop a strong sense of local identity.
Fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, there aren't any recordings of Cardiff Hindi or Indian Scouse on the site, though I did find this clip of Lancashire Urdu...

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