London has long been considered by linguists as a motor of change in the English language in Britain. The investigators’ ESRC-funded studies from the early 90s to 2007 show that, while there is widespread ‘levelling’ in the south-east, leading to greater uniformity in accent and grammar, there are new, largely minority ethnic-based changes emerging in inner-city London. The present project investigates whether and how young children acquire these new features, how they are maintained or accentuated in adolescence, and whether they are maintained in adulthood. If they are, this will have consequences for the development of spoken English in Britain. The research asks: Are there different ‘ethnic’ Englishes in London, or is the new variety, dubbed ‘Multicultural London English’ (MLE), relatively uniform across ethnicities, including ‘Anglos’? Do Londoners change their speech across the lifespan? What features enter into MLE, and which don’t? Do Londoners detect any ethnic affiliation for the features? Are there rhythmic differences in the speech of Londoners? The project will record, mainly in pairs, at least 112 people from the northern inner city, ages ranging from 4 to 40 and the ethnic balance reflecting the local population. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses will be performed.

Start date
30 September 2007
End date
31 December 2010
Grant holder
Professor Paul Kerswill
Professor Jennifer Cheshire
Grant amount
Grant reference
Linguistics (General)
Grant type