More than two years ago (blog, 25 Mar 2008) I reported on the work being done by Jenny Cheshire, Sue Fox, Paul Kerswill and Eivind Torgersen on the speech of young Londoners living in the inner city. Traditional Cockney has given way to what they call “Multicultural London English”.
Eivind and Paul (pictured) have now kindly made available to me some sound clips of this new variety. I am not at liberty to let you hear any extended samples, but what I can do is let you listen to one or two words or phrases.
One of the innovations they identify is ‘k-backing’.
We’re used to the idea that velars tend to accommodate to the place of the following vowel, being somewhat fronter before front vowels and backer before back vowels. We routinely compare the initial plosive of keep with that of cool and perhaps use this to illustrate the notion of allophones of a phoneme.
The k-backing innovation is a kind of exaggeration of the backing of velars before back vowels. Rather than a mildly retracted k in words such as car, come, caught, many younger inner-London speakers have a very retracted plosive, perhaps even a uvular q.
Listen to clips of a young Anglo (= ethnically white) speaker pronouncing the phrases he's comi..., coming into it, yeah? and (a) parked car. This speaker has a multicultural friendship network. Note the backed ks, which are typical of such multiculturally-oriented anglos and of non-anglos. Anglos whose friendship network is Anglo-only do it just slightly less. Older people don’t do it at all.
No one knows where this innovation comes from.
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In other news, the next International Congress of Phonetic Sciences will be held in Hong Kong from the 17th to the 21st of August 2011. The website has recently gone live here.