WP61 From “multi-ethnic urban heteroglossia” to “contemporary urban vernaculars”

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Research on crossing and stylisation in the everyday practice of young people in multi-ethnic urban areas of Britain during the 1980s and 1990s pointed to the destabilisation of inherited ethnicities, to a good deal of ground-level anti-racism, and to the emergence of new ethnicities. Recent reassessment of these data has brought out the social class underpinnings of these heteroglossic/polylingual processes, and this is also in line with the findings of a growing body of sociolinguistic research in European cities. Indeed, there is compelling evidence that these kind of mixed language practices have been a stable feature of the urban working class sociolinguistic landscape for at least 30 years.
At the same time, research on this contemporary heteroglossia have overwhelmingly focused on young people, to the extent that polylingual urban vernacular speech is quite often referred to as ?youth language?. But are these speech practices really only transient age-specific phenomena that young people grow out of? This paper presents some evidence to the contrary. Drawing interview and observational recordings from an ESRC-project ?Dialect development and style in a diaspora community?, the paper focuses on post-adolescent and middle-aged informants in West London during 2008 & 2009, describes the enduring significance of the kinds of speech practice initially identified with youth, examines the place that these styles now occupy within the informants? repertoires more generally, and attempts to settle some of the terminological dispute that characterises recent sociolinguistic research in this field, using Agha?s theory of ?register? to try to reconceptualise the notion of ?vernacular?.