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Language and identity in the Cockney Diaspora: A sociophonetic and variationist study

Cole, Amanda (2021) Language and identity in the Cockney Diaspora: A sociophonetic and variationist study. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis presents four publications exploring variation, change and the social meaning of phonetic features in the context of ongoing linguistic and social change in South East England as related to the Cockney Diaspora. This term refers to the large-scale 20th century relocation of white, working-class East Londoners to Essex. Linguistic production data is extracted from sociolinguistic interviews with 119 people from Debden, an estate built in Essex in the late 1940s in order to rehome East Londoners. The vowel system, (H) and (ING) are analysed. Results reveal that Cockney linguistic features were transported to Debden along with the Cockneys who relocated. However, early-stage linguistic change is present in the generation afforded a greater potential for social mobility in the 1980s socio-political changes. Linguistic change emerged abruptly in those born between 1982 and 1990. Although linguistic change is led by women, as a result of the matrilfocal nature of Cockney culture, a change in identity is led by young men who unanimously reject a Cockney identity. In general, young Debden speakers are distancing themselves from a Cockney identity, and are shifting away from local dialect features that index Cockney. Instead, they favour “Essex” features which represent broad south-eastern, working-class norms. Some but not all Cockney linguistic features have been re-evaluated as an Essex accent. Thus, linguistic features do not operate independently but collectively take on social meaning such that they may be used in stylistic projections or experience community-level change. Complementing these results, attitudinal data are collected from 194 individuals aged 18-33 years old in South East England who evaluated audio clips from 102 other young south-eastern speakers. The analysis of this data reveals that the negative evaluations of Cockney have been transplanted into Essex (particularly southern parts) – an area which young people perceive as exemplifying south-eastern, white, working-class speech.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cockney; Essex; language change; social meaning; Cockney vowel shift; (H); (ING); gender; language attitudes; identity
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2021 09:56
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2021 17:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/29772

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