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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Migration 'creating' new dialects
Traditional English dialects such as Geordie and Yorkshire, are being transformed by a diverse influx of migrants.

A conference organised by universities in north-east England, suggests the world's dialects are multiplying faster than ever before.

Previous research showed old dialects were declining because of greater social mobility.

But linguists say Caribbean and Asian languages are now having a big impact.

More than 400 of the world's leading linguists are due at a conference in Newcastle, organised by a team from the Universities of Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Durham.

Native tongue

The new findings quash fears that globalisation is leading to a standardising of language.

Researchers say immigrants to areas such as Europe, the US and Australia are creating completely new dialects when they learn the language of their host country by mixing it with aspects of their native tongue.

Black English terms include babymother, meaning the mother of one or more of a person's children; irie - nice, good, or pleasing; and big something up, which is slang for recommend or praise something.

Other West Indian terms in the Oxford Dictionary of English include facety - meaning rude, arrogant, or excessively bold, probably influenced by the English word feisty - and bad-minded, which is short for malicious, unsympathetic, or cynical.

Asian English terms include gora, which is a term for a white person and chuddies - slang for underpants.

Social mobility

The number of dialects is expected to increase even more rapidly over the next few years as asylum seekers from countries from Bosnia to Iraq continue to seek refuge in other nations.

Newcastle University linguist Dr Karen Corrigan, one of the conference organisers, said: "Language has always developed over time but at the moment it is changing much faster than it ever has done as a result of increased opportunities for social and geographical mobility.

"Research still suggests that your dialect or accent remains an important indicator of your social status.

"It's just that the expanding number of varieties means that people have a greater choice of where to place themselves in society."

She said it was difficult to say how new migrants would affect the languages of their host communities in the long term.




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