Move over Cockney, Multicultural London English (MLE) could one day take over not just the capital and the south, but the rest of the Britain, too, according to research recently carried out. The rapidly growing dialect is now widely spoken on the streets of London, taken from a variety of languages all fused together. It has superseded the 19th-century East End invention as the main tongue among working class people in the capital.
Forget your ‘apples and pears’ and ‘frog and toad’, soon you’ll be hearing people talk about ‘side ting’, ‘upsuh’ and ‘roadman’. Many folk of the younger generation are already up to speed on MLE and they are expected, over time, to pass it down to their children, ensuring it continues to grow and spread.
Professor Paul Kerswill of the University of York says MLE is a dialect born in the English capital in the early 1980s, but traces its roots back to the Windrush generation. He said: “It started in the East End of London in highly multilingual areas with lots of immigration. An amalgam of different kinds of English merged into one.”
Much of the MLE slang from Jamaican, but much of the dialect owes itself to languages from other communities that came to London. While the descendants of immigrants who moved to London are the most likely to speak MLE, many of the slang words have been picked up by the wider population.
Among its pioneers and proponents are a number of grime artists including Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy. And as words start appearing more often in entertainment they are likely to become more widely used.
Professor Kerswill explains: “It’s an in-group vocabulary, it’s not going to bulldoze other accents. The youth, people aged 15 to 30, don’t speak it all the time necessarily.
“George the Poet has the accent and he uses the slang, but in interviews he sounds quite standard. Some will speak it as it’s how they’d like to be seen, others will speak it for fun.
As for the future of MLE, he said: “I suppose it’ll transform itself as language does. It certainly rules the roost at the moment.
“It will remain a youth language. Older people don’t really use slang, or they will only use it when they’re with their in-group.”
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