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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 11:16 GMT
Leicester's legacy to the world?
Sir Richard
Sir Richard Attenborough's home city is birthplace of modern English
The city which gave us Gary Lineker, Engelbert Humperdink and Sir Richard Attenborough, is officially the birthplace of modern standard English.

This will come as no surprise to academics, who claim the culturally diverse mixture of settlers to the East Midlands a thousand years ago, helped shape the future of the world's most widely spoken language.

A harmonising rather than a clash of cultures is at the heart of this metamorphosis.

Norwegian football fan in a Viking helmet
"Anglo-Saxon, it's all Greek to me"
In Leicester, the warring Anglo Saxons and Vikings set aside their differences and the two communities began living peacefully alongside each other sharing their trades and languages.

Without their influence, the English language would have been locked into an Anglo-Saxon style using complicated grammatical word endings, which continue today in German.

The revelation coincides with the Plain English Campaign awards, which are being presented on Wednesday in London.

Culturally diverse

"No-one can control language, it belongs to the people and develops" said John Lister, from the PEC.

And Leicester is still forcing those changes today.

The city has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the country, with Asian and Afro-Caribbean influences beginning to filter through into the local dialect.

Worrying trends

The university's Dr Elaine Treharne said: "There is likely to be linguistic swapping from the large Asian community and I imagine these words will become part of the local Leicester dialect."

How important is English?
1,500 million people speak English globally
Official language of international air traffic control
Has official status in more than 60 countries
Principal language of computer systems

However there are some other trends which are materialising in written English.

"The apostrophe is disappearing and will disappear altogether by the end of the century," said Dr Treharne.

"And I believe the threat will be standardisation of spelling towards the American style."

Long live regional dialects

But the bastion of established local identity, the regional dialect, will hopefully never change.

And trying to ensure its survival in the East Midlands is author Cliff Dunkley who's immortalised a selection of local phrases in "Let's Talk Leicester".

Dialect is a distinguishing feature

Cliff Dunkley, author

In the traditional Leicester lingo, a local weather forecast might go something like: "It's black 'uvver Bill's Mother"

Which roughly translated means: "The sky is dark and threatening".

Gary Lineker
Ay up, Gary, m'duck
And how about that opening gambit: "Ay up m'duck"?

Cliff Dunkley said: "I think the dialect is a distinguishing feature, but probably not as euphonious as other areas of the country."

These days it is more likely to be Australian soaps and American TV shows which are shaping standard spoken English.

But Leicester's contribution was just as dramatic in its time, without the benefit of mass media.

The city should therefore be proud of its influential roots.

Shakespeare's sonnets would have sounded very different without it.

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