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(Mis)interpreting urban youth language: white kids sounding black?

Drummond, R (2016) (Mis)interpreting urban youth language: white kids sounding black? Journal of Youth Studies. ISSN 1469-9680

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Abstract

ABSTRACT The language of young people is often viewed very negatively by some sections of the mainstream media and by some social commentators in the UK. While this is nothing new – older generations routinely despair of how the youth of today are ruining the language – what is different now is the added element of ethnicity, whereby young people of various ethnicities are perceived as using some kind of ‘ghetto grammar’ or ‘Jafaican’ which carry often explicit connotations of ‘sounding black’. This paper challenges the mainstream view by firstly introducing the linguistic take on this emerging Multicultural Urban British English, and then exploring the views of young people themselves on how they use language by taking qualitative data from a linguistic ethnography project involving 14–16-year-olds in a nonmainstream urban educational setting. The young people provide insights into their language that are in complete opposition to the views so often expressed in the media, and which instead suggest that linguistic features that were previously strongly associated with specific ethnicities are being used in new and innovative ways. Refreshingly, it would appear that for many young people ethnicity is simply not a consideration, at least in relation to language.

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