Who made Multicultural London English?

The study in a sentence

Multicultural London English (MLE) emerged in the context of the rich variety of languages spoken in London as a result of inward migration in the second half of the 20th century. 

MLE is distinct from any of the accents or dialects that came before, and is now to a large extent shared across all ethnicities and language backgrounds, but retains a few features of Jamaican origin.

The question(s)

Key concept

The theory of new-dialect formation (Trudgill 2004) argues that:

The work here shows that MLE partly matches this description of a 'new dialect', but that its origins are richer and more complex due to the urban setting in which it arose.

What is Multicultural London English?   Read more on Paul Kerswill's Multicultural London English page.

Graph showing the immigration numbers over time to the UK from different places of origin
Entry dates of West Indian, Indian and Pakistani people to Great Britain (Owen1995: 4, Figure 4)


Map showing proportion of households in Hackney where no one speaks English as a main language.
Households where no one speaks English as a main language in Hackney. Source: https://hackney.gov.uk/population 

The answer

"‘Multiethnolects’ such as MLE are the product of language contact, and in that respect their histories resemble those of creoles: people find themselves in the position of having to acquire new linguistic features in order to integrate linguistically with others." 

"In a complex situation such as the emergence of multiethnolects, it is only by adding a component of cultural and social interpretation that we can approach an understanding of the outcomes." 

Kerswill, P., & Torgersen, E. (2021: 9 & 23)

Classroom activities

Lead in task

Identifying MLE features in a sample of speech from Big Zuu

Extension task

Exploring style-shifting in and out of MLE

In more detail

A longer explanation of the research study

Pre-Workshop Talk [9 mins]

Live Webinar Talk [19 mins]

CPD2021 PK presentation.pdf

Slides from the Live Webinar talk

Meet the author

Paul Kerswill

Paul studies Multicultural London English and language change in contact situations. 

Read the paper

Kerswill, P., & Torgersen, E. (2021). Tracing the Origins of an Urban Youth Vernacular: Founder Effects, Frequency, and Culture in the Emergence of Multicultural London English. In Beaman, K. V., Buchstaller, I., Fox, S., & Walker, J. A. (eds.) Advancing Socio-grammatical Variation and Change (pp. 249-276). Routledge. pdf