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DISCUSS: Dialect Diversity 001

From:Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>
Date:Monday, April 19, 2004, 8:42
This is the first of three articles; the first two suggesting that dialect
diversity in the UK is actually increasing contrary to expectations, and the
third that the various Yorkshire accents/dialects are flattening out to a
kind of omni-yorkshire

Dialect explosion signals decline of BBC English

Martin Wainwright
Thursday April 1, 2004
The Guardian

Global travel and migration have given an unexpected shot in the arm to the
world's dialects, until recently often viewed as a quaint, doomed relic of
more primitive times.

Incoming communities have married their own forms of speech to the argot of
their new neighbours, creating fresh versions of widely spoken languages
such as English, Arabic and Chinese.

The growth is rapid enough to qualify as a "dialect explosion", according to
specialists who meet in Newcastle today to discuss - occasionally in dialect
- the boom.

"Language has always developed over time," said Karen Corrigan, a linguist
at Newcastle University and co-organiser of the event. "But at the moment
it's changing much faster than it ever has done because of increased
opportunities for social and geographical mobility."

The research findings, which will be debated by about 400 linguists from
across the world, reverse long-standing assumptions about dialects such as
Geordie and Bristolian. A mammoth taping project by British academics,
started in the 1950s and still continuing, began because of a conviction
that the peculiarities in speech of rural Dorset or inner-city Liverpool
were bound to die out.

"Just the opposite has happened," said Charley Rowe, another linguist in
Newcastle. "It is RP, received pronunciation or 'BBC English', which has
been in retreat.

"Here in Newcastle, where new dialects now mean we've got at least 10 ways
of saying the word 'don't', there are people who now see a general
north-east accent as too posh, let alone RP."

The new dialects are far from complete languages, but follow their
predecessors' tradition in enriching vocabulary or changing pronunciations.
Old Bristolian, which habitually adds an "l" to words ending in a vowel, has
been given Caribbean, Indian sub-continent and eastern European spins.

New terms in the African-Caribbean versions include irie, meaning nice or
good, and facety, a version of the English word feisty. Asian English
novelties include chuddies for underpants, and gora, meaning a white person.

The conference will also discuss the spread of new dialect phrases and
usages such as "bigging something up" (recommending or praising) and the
ubiquitous use of "like" by young people.

New dialects are expected to increase yet more rapidly, particularly in
Europe and the US, with the movement of workers and the continuing flow of
asylum seekers. Specialists reckon the total is three or four times the
level of 50 years ago.

The linguistic theories of the fictional Henry Higgins in George Bernard
Shaw's Pygmalion, and the musical adaptation, My Fair Lady, remain true,

Dr Corrigan said: "The research still suggests that your dialect or accent
remains an important indicator of your social status. But the expanding
number of varieties means that people have a greater choice of where to
place themselves in society."

Local colour

Standard English
I'm going into town today

I'm ganen doon the toon the day

Ah'm nicely off out t'taan

South London
Am gahn dahn tahn todiey

Am gun uptoon todee

Ahs goin ter bristle todayl

I go ter towen terdaay