Saturday, 16 April 2011

It's All About Sociolinguistics, Innit?

Hat-tip to The Week for reprinting the fascinating article by Helen Rumbelow, on how English is being transformed by multi-cultural Britain, rather than American sportscasters.

Jonnie Robinson, curator of sociolinguistics at the British Library, explains that about 80% of English speakers have English as their second language. This provides plenty of opportunities for "word-sex" between English and other languages - mainly in London where over 200 languages are spoken. This intercourse produces new stress patterns (emphasis) on syllables, "question tags" that turn sentences into questions, as well as brand new words like "peng". Ironically, the reason that English spoken elsewhere in the world tends to jar with Londoners' sensibilities is because it's relatively antiquated, not somehow bastardised.

This would seem to present a grave challenge to any business hoping to "chat" authentically and consistently in the globally accessible social media world (which also has its own slang). In fact, global - even regional - consistency would seem a lost cause. And the roll-out of the various location features on the major social media platforms is a precursor to locally targeted "chat", and products. Innit?

Image from UMS English Department blog.
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