XIII Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2021


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Recent years have seen the emergence of Multicultural London English. It is a bright representation of what linguists call a ‘multiethnolect’. This term coined byClyne and Quist [1] ‘regards multiethnic speech as a phenomenon that involves characteristic linguistic features, without neglecting its social relevance within a complex, heterogeneous setting where its speakers engage in a range of different communities of practice’ [2].

The multiethnolect describes a new language variety forming with the help of mixing diverse multiethnic and multilingual neighborhoods of urban areas together. Although this phenomenon appeared about thirty years ago, nowadays, MLE is rapidly gaining popularity among young people [3]. This complex mixture of the Cockney dialect, other UK regional varieties of English, Received Pronunciation, Jamaican Creole, African, Caribbean, and Asian Englishes, and further languages other than English can be heard in a great number of cities including Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester [4].

In this article, we will investigate the emergence of the accent, distinctive features of consonants and vowels, touch upon the special aspects of intonation used in Multicultural London English.


To realize how many features MLE has, we should retrace historical changes taking place in East London. According to Jenny Cheshire, David Hall and David Adger’s research, in the 19th century the majority of the population was monolingual speakers of local Cockney accent [5]. Although small groups of immigrants arrived, they were mostly isolated and did not have close social ties. However, after World War II things changed, British government looked for workers outside the country who could help to increase theeconomic growth of United Kingdom [6]. A significant wave of immigrationoccurred during the late 1950s from developing countries. The ethnical groups from West Africa, West India, Jamaica and Asia got traditionally settled in this area, especially in Hackney, trying to find work [7]. People with different language backgrounds lived in quite underprivileged neighbourhoods, and economic deprivation led to the maintenance of close kin and neighbourhood ties [8]. At the same time, children of these communities rapidly shifted to the majority language. It is important to notice that this change became a crucial factor bringing about connections between locals and foreigners and, as a consequence, linguistic innovations. As the children had grown older, their English stabilized. As a result, now Multicultural London English has been developing and getting new features.

Consonant Sound Features

MLE shares many consonantal features with Cockney such us th-fronting, glottal stops but also there are specific phonetic innovations appeared with the help of blending the African, the Caribbean and South Asian languages: k-backing, hissing sibilants s and z and others.

Reversal of H-dropping

In the Southern English varieties the initial [h] sound is usually dropped as in Cockney like ‘ot, ‘ere, ‘ome instead of hot, here and home. Nevertheless, young MLE speakers pronounce [h] at the beginning of words in a greater degree according to Ammon and Mattheier’s analysis [9].

Backing of [k] to [q] 

Speakers tent to make the consonant [k] in the word-initial position further back in the vocal tract and realize [q] when it precedes by non-high back vowels (e.g. in the words such as cot, car, caught – [qɒt], [qɑː], [qɔːt]). It is necessary to add that this feature was not used by elderly speakers at all.


Another important feature of the modern accent is pronunciation of the interdental fricatives [θ] and [ð] as the sounds [t], [d] or even fronted [v], [f]. In view of this, a word ‘either’ can be realized as [aɪvə].

High-frequency [s] and [z]

Geoff Lindsey in his blog described one more MLE’s phonetic innovation is the advanced articulation of s and z of young Londoners. He called the phenomenon as ‘high-frequency [s̟] and [z̟]’ mentioning that in sibilants the hissing noise is realized at the higher frequency than usually. Moreover, they have a specific tongue position- near the teeth [10].

Glottalization of [t]

In various environments the consonant [t] tends to be pronounced as a glottal plosive, [ʔ], rather than as the traditional alveolar [t] after vowel and sonorant consonant sounds in the middle [waʔer] or at end of the words [lighʔ]. MLE shares this feature with Cockney accent.

Vocalization of dark [l]

The dark [l] allophone is now undergoing a process of vocalization (becoming a vowel). Thus in a word such as feel, traditionally [fiːɫ], the tongue tip may nowadays make no contact at all with the alveolar ridge: instead we have a new kind of diphthong, [fɪʊ].

Pronunciation of [ŋ] at the end of the word

The last consonantal feature of MLE is pronunciation of ‘ng’ endings as a sonorant [n]: [wɔː.kɪn], [plëɪn], [rʌnin].

Vowel Sound Features

MLE has very distinctive vowel sounds, some of them are pronounced more relaxed and backed than in standard English, some of them have a more fronted position. But as with all things MLE, there’s plenty of variation from one speaker’s sounds

Fronting of [ʊ] sound

The manner of the actual pronunciation of English FOOT sound is different in MLE. The vowel is significantly front and close. It is more similar to French [ʊ̟] than the traditional [ʊ] used in dictionaries [11].

Backing of [æ], [ʌ] and [iː]

There is no strong difference between standard pronunciation and modern but the young Londoners have a more back and less open TRAP vowel than the elderly speakers. As a result, they realize a variety of [ɐ]. The same situation with STRUT vowel, there is a great variety of this sound such as [ɑ] or [ʌ], [ɐ]. MLE speakers pronounce the front FLEECE sound in a relaxed manner, so the tongue isn’t quite as far to the front.

Monophthongization of diphthongs[ɪə], [aɪ], [aʊ]

There is a tendency for some of the existing diphthongs to be smoothed out, to become shorter, so that they are more like pure vowels. The diphthong [ɪə] is more often pronounced as a long diphthongoid [ɪː] like in the words nearly, fear, deer: [nɪːli], [fɪː], [dɪː]. Likewise, Londoners realize the sound [aɪ] as a slightly front sound [ɜ̟ː]. Diphthong [aʊ] starts around [a], very near [æ], and sometimes more central [ɐː]. Also it can be heard a slightly diphthongal quality to it [ɐu] with some quality of [ʊ] or [ǝ] sounds [12].

Lack of [əʊ]-fronting

The glide [əʊ] begins with a more close-back position than in Cockney. Moreover, the second part of the diphthong is usually dropped or realized in a small degree. In this case, words such as go, over, know are pronounced like [goʊ], [oʊvə], [noʊ] or even [goː], [oːvə], [noː].

Pronunciation of [eɪ] diphthong

There is a great variation of the glide of [eɪ] diphthong in MLE. Its star point can be [ë] or [a], though the end point is often [ɪ]. However, pronunciations with a monophthong [ëː] instead of a diphthong can be heard.

Stress and Intonation

MLE speakers either can have a Caribbean model of stress time in their speech, when the word's syllables are stressed in equal measure or Cockney pattern with the greater prominence given to specific syllables to highlight them.

The pitch range used by MLE speakers is also very variable, ranging from monotone cool and casual to an animated and jumpy collection of pitch changes.’


1. Michael Clyne. (2013). Lingua Franca and Ethnolects in Europe and Beyond.

2. Ulrike Freywald, Katharina Mayr, Tiner Ozcelik, Heike Wiese. (2011). Kiezdeutsch as a multiethnolect. University of Potsdam.

3. Jenny Cheshire, Jacomine Nortier, David Adger. (2015). Emerging multiethnolects in Europe. Queen Mary, University of London

4. Paul Kerswill (2014). The objectification of ‘Jafaican’: the discoursal embedding of Multicultural London English in the British media.

5.Jenny Cheshire, David Hall, David Adger. (2017). Multicultural London English and social and educational policies. Languages, Society & Policy.

6. Julie Coleman. Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives.­– Taylor & Francis Ltd. 2014. – 244 p.

7. Ruth Kircher, Sue Fox. (2019). Multicultural London English and its speakers: a corpus-informed discourse study of standard language ideology and social stereotypes. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

8. Jenny Cheshire; Paul Kerswill; Sue Fox; Eivind Torgersen (2011). Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English.

9. Jenny Cheshire, Sue Fox, Paul Kerswill, Eivind Torgersen (Eds.). (2008). Ethnicity, friendship network and social practices as the motor of dialect change: Linguistic innovation in London. Sociolinguistica Jahrbuch.

10. Lindsey, Geoff. (2011). "english speech services | Accent of the Year / sibilants in MLE".

11. Joseph Hudson. (2020). Pronunciation studio at home.Multicultural London English – the Urban English Accent

12. Paul Kerswill, Eivind Torgersen, Sue Fox. (2008). Reversing “drift”: Innovation and diffusion in the London diphthong system. Language Variation and Change.

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