Dialect Development and Style in a Diasporic Community

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Languages Linguistics and Film

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Public discourse has frequently framed immigrant or diasporic communities as linguistically divided across generations. Sociolinguistic theory also constructs a sharp boundary between non-native and native dialect acquisition. Using quantitative and qualitative sociolinguistic methods, this project investigates inter-generational dialect development in a Punjabi London community. The project aims to document changing uses of English as indicative of social change, examine how generations influence one another, and assess factors affecting dialect type, including social network, bilingualism, ideology. The data collected includes extensive audio speech recordings (semi-structured interviews), social network information, and additional personal information such as bilingualism and attitudes among informants networked across three familial generations. A subset of participants also recorded themselves in different everyday interactions, generating multi-faceted individual speech profiles. Findings include:

(i) Many older British Asians retain native-like skill in both British and Indian English, negotiating multi-group membership bidialectally; younger individuals lose this differentiation of life worlds and employ a fused British Asian style. A new method for analysing speech repertoires reveals changes in social network diversity, indicating a previously unobserved transformation in British Asian cultural structures.

(ii) Non-native parents and native children mutually accommodate their English styles, tempering claims of non-native fossilisation and sharp generational divides, and identifying the family (neglected under Western sociolinguistics) as a major conduit for new language use.

(iii) A new technique for tracing speech variation in interaction reveals that selected individuals fine-tune dialect traits in interaction, optionally endowing speech forms with ethnopolitical ideologies.

(iv) New speech styles can develop later in life in a second language, casting doubt on a reified division between native and non-native speech style.

(v) The 'multi-ethnic urban vernacular' originally identified among youth in the 1980s should not be characterised as 'youth language', as it endures into later life.

These findings impact upon sociolinguistic theory (cognitive and social factors; acquisition), sociolinguistic methodology (speech repertoires; networks), models of second language speech, and public perceptions of minority communities.
Exploitation Route Within sociolinguistics and migration studies, the new metrics of network, transnational activity, and stylistic meaning can be applied to various situations of language contact, social contact, identity shift, and migration. In non-linguistic contexts, media interest has focused on gender differences in the register range or repertoire of second generation community members, with younger women showing wider repertoire range. The findings have also been useful to secondary school teachers and to teachers of English as an auxiliary language, as speech styles, dialect shift, and language choice can be better understood through the outcomes of the project.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://webspace.qmul.ac.uk/dsharma/esrc/index.html
 
Description Our findings have been disseminated beyond academia to teachers in secondary schools and teachers of English as an Auxiliary Language in the area of West London where the research was conducted. The media have reported on findings or engaged the PI's participation via numerous channels: print media (Evening Standard, Sunday Times, the Guardian) and radio (BBC London, BBC Asian Network). Other institutions have also engaged with the work (the British Academy, the British Library). Feedback from the public indicates some uptake, e.g. A-Level English Language teachers are being provided with simple, usable versions of the research for use in teaching; an educator involved in business studies training reported the same gender differences found in my research and adopted aspects of the findings in his own advice for business practice (e.g. expanding one's repertoire of speech styles). Media practitioners in TV and advertising took note of aspects of the work on code-switching in a cross-field conference in India.
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description ESRC Workshop at SOAS ('Teaching field linguistics techniques') 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Attendance: 50+ teachers, community organisers, postgraduates, international scholars. Discussion used data from ESRC project to illustrate innovative methodologies for sociolinguistic analysis.

PhD students approached me for further advice on field methodologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL https://www.llas.ac.uk/events/archive/3209
 
Description Film/media/advertising practitioners panel (India) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participant on a panel on "Is Hinglish a unifying force?" in Mumbai, India. The panel included leading journalists, media personalities, and academics from numerous disciplines. Audience: 400+ media producers, film-makers, advertising professionals, writers, journalists, businesspeople, students, academics. Discussion was heated, as the question of Hindi-English mixing is highly charged in India.

Publication of a popular book on themes discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://penguinbooks.co.za/book/chutnefying-english-phenomenon-hinglish/9780143416395
 
Description Interview on BBC London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I participated in a radio chat show (Sunny and Shay) dedicated to the question of bilingualism in the UK. The radio audience of BBC London is mixed but the programme was mainly related to British Asian culture.

Numerous British Asians who heard the discussion commented that it influenced their degree of self-confidence in their own status as bilinguals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/qmnews/items/92906.html
 
Description Launch of 'Multilingual Capital: A Resource for London Communities' (Queen Mary, University of London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Multilingual Capital is a new public engagement initiative based in the School of Languages, Linguistics, and Film (Queen Mary, University of London). Through engaging with all groups impacted by multilingualism - parents, children, support services, schools, the general public - we aim to share and develop insights about multilingualism. It takes a particular interest in East End communities, but also welcomes dialogue with groups across London and the UK, and indeed cross-national dialogue.

The basic goals of this initiative include:

• Engaging with London communities to strengthen communication across relevant groups
• Increasing the visibility of multilingualism in London so that the linguistic diversity of the capital is accurately represented
• Sharing research findings on multilingualism
• Creating new knowledge by documenting language use and diversity in London.

The initiative was launched through a successful public event on 18 March. The event was attended by over 75 people from a wide range of backgrounds, including students, researchers, interpreters, professionals with a personal or professional interest in multilingualism, educators, teachers, parents, and asylum and refugee workers. The format of the event followed popular programmes such as Question Time, with short talks followed by the panel discussing questions submitted in advance by members of the audience. The panel included: Dr. Beverley Costa (CEO of Mothertongue, a multilingual counselling service), Dr. Naomi Nagy (Lead investigator of the Heritage Language Variation and Change project, Toronto, Canada), Prof. Itesh Sachdev (Professor at SOAS, Director of the Centre for Languages of the Wider World), Dr. Esther de Leeuw (Linguistics, QMUL, specialist in bilingualism in immigrant communities), and Dr. Devyani Sharma (Linguistics, QMUL, specialist in language variation and change in London).

New activities and online information will continue to be added to the Multilingual Capital website: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/multilingualcapital

Numerous community language activists and teachers contacted us to share events and activities on our website. I (Devyani Sharma) created a set of teaching materials about multilingualism freely available online for use in schools (linked to the ESRC Festival of Social Science). A number of media outlets (e.g. the Guardian, the BBC, the Evening Standard) and institutions (the British Academy) approached us for interviews and further collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.qmul.ac.uk/multilingualcapital
 
Description Live Chat panel on the Guardian website (part of Language Festival) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 2 hour online chat with public and a panel of experts led to multiple threads of discussion relating to language and identity in the UK.

A few participants had further exchanges with me on related topics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/31/cultural-power-of-languages-live-chat
 
Description Short film on BBC's The One Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The findings of this project were the basis for a short (5-minute) film, made as part of Alistair McGowan's series on Accents in the UK. The series is broadcast as part of the BBC's primetime evening programme The One Show. The film was made with the participation of the Primary Investigator on the project and two participants from the community studied. The Primary Investigator received responses from members of the community as well as the general public in response.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0511ct8
 
Description Talk for A-level English Language teachers at the British Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I presented a forthcoming set of teaching resources for A-level English Language teachers. Senior AQA examiners were also present. The teaching materials cover a range of specialist knowledge in our department, including findings of this project. There were 20 delegates and a number of follow-up initiatives resulted. I will be writing articles for the NATE (National Assoc of Teachers of English) magazine and A-level English magazine to publicise the resources. I am also now in discussion with the AQA to introduce some of the content into the A-level English curriculum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bl.uk/events/talking-english-2018
 
Description Workshop for teachers in Hounslow Language Centre, West London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The topic our project team presented on was 'Changing uses of English across different generations of London Indian families.' Attendance was by school teachers and ESL/EAL teachers. The discussion was very animated, with very positive mutual exchange of information regarding English use and learning, multilingual schoolchildren, and identity development.

Teachers noted that they would feed information from the presentations back into their classroom practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010