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East African Indian twice migrants in Britain

image of East African Indian twice migrants in Britain

Recent years have seen a rapid increase of sociolinguistic interest in the use of English in the British Asian diaspora. The focus of this work has usually been on locally-born speakers (e.g. Heselwood & McChrystal 2000; Hirson & Sohail 2007; Cheshire et al. 2011; Sharma 2011; Stuart-Smith et al. 2011) with some studies also looking into cross-generational variation (Evans et al. 2007; McCarthy et al. 2011; Sharma & Sankaran 2011). The present paper contributes to this growing body of research by providing insight into patterns of dialect variation and change among East African Indians in Leicester, a community of South Asian twice migrants who settled in Britain via East Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like Fiji Indians in New Zealand (Hundt, this volume), East African Indians in Britain present an interesting case study for the linguistic outcomes of dialect contact in secondary diaspora situations, an under-researched type of contact setting. The aim of this paper is to determine how the complex migration pattern of East African Indians in Leicester has influenced their variety of English and, furthermore, whether and how linguistic patterns change across generations. To this end, I examine variation in the use of postvocalic /r/ in a group of first- and second-generation migrants. The results indicate that, despite a strong sense of affiliation with East Africa, first-generation speakers have predominantly maintained Indian English patterns in their use of this variable whereas second-generation subjects show accommodation to the local variety of British English. Evidence from the community’s social history accounts for the findings.

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Zurich

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