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Mans be writing ‘bout English Grammar Day and that innit

By ucyow3c, on 29 June 2015

pencil-icon Written by Erzen Llapashtica

How do you say scone? Is it a “skone’ or a “skon”? Or is that red, round, juicy fruit you make ketchup out of, a ‘tomaeto’ or a ‘tomatoe’. These were just a couple of the many questions raised by ‘Celebrating vernacular English’, a talk by Jonnie Robinson (Lead Curator, Sociolinguistics and Education, British Library) that was part of a joint conference organised by UCL, Oxford University and the British Library to celebrate English Grammar Day.

Well, as an answer to the question above, 65% of Brits pronounce scone as “skon’ with the remaining 35% enunciating the tea time treat as a “skone”, with the word having no right or wrong pronunciation due to the persons regional tongue or accent.

English Grammar Day 2015

English Grammar Day 2015

Robinson further explored the wide variations of the English language, and how it’s spoken, whether it be grammatical, phonological or lexical, as well as its tolerance (and intolerance) within society. He spoke of how some individuals enjoy the diversity of vernacular English, while others hold a stiff upper lip against its use. Furthermore, he mentioned how the linguistic variations in how people speak – yet not write – English is “a reflection of shared and diverse identities” – as well as being a “source of mutual pride” among those who speak a particular regional dialect.

With some people, the invariant tag “innit” raises some eyebrows when used, while for others, it is a common phrase used in everyday speech. Despite the increasing usage of invariant tags in the past 25-30 years, these words have actually been used for the past century throughout England (and not just East London as many are led to believe). And the same goes for “like” – frequently used as a filler in spontaneous speech – even more so by young women.

Robinson played numerous BBC Radio interviews from as early as 1935, which included interviewees coming from all across Britain, from south Wales to Newcastle, and from Liverpool to London. All used at least either one of “like” or “innit”, yet with varied positions within a clause.

Northerners, especially of the older generations, use “like” at the end of a phrase (“I love working with young ones like”), whereas southerners, particularly from London, use it more as a filler (“I went into this like shop”).

Robinson also mentioned that it’s not just northerners who don’t say their “t’s” (“I’m going t’play football”) – its use is becoming more common in London, with the possibility that it could become the new “like”. Also, he wondered, is slang becoming a more acceptable way of speaking, with middle class teenagers using it as part a ‘youth style’, to make them seem ‘cool’ and ‘hip’?

Overall, I found that the talk gave me an interesting, yet light-hearted, insight into the reasons behind why we talk vernacular English, and how what seems like modern trends in spoken English have actually been used by numerous generations throughout the past century.

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