The recent media confecting of a so-called “social cleansing row” obliged me to do some revision on the fascinating theme of how language, class and ethnicity interact in the formation of different Londoners’ sense of belonging and identity. I will be chewing all this over with a bunch of clever people one day next week with a view to encouraging stronger feelings of connection with the city as a whole.
How people talk is a big thread in all this. One insight into the way London has changed in recent times is provided by the decline of cockney speech in East London and and the rise of what is called Multicultural London English, sometimes largely mis-described as “Jafaican”. I’ve found two film clips about it. The first is an item from The One Show from 2015, featuring a mum, her son, linguistics academic Dr David Hornsby and impressionist Alistair McGowan.
The second clip is longer and from September 2011, shortly after historian David Starkey was given a large public platform on which to display his ignorance after the London riots of that year. Professor Paul Kerswill works in sociolinguistics at the University of York. This is his East End TED talk.
Just as the city changes endlessly, so does the way its people sound.