The Evolving Speech Styles of Punjabi Londoners
The ethnicity of minority groups is often salient to outsiders and assumed to be a shared identity for community members. This essay closely examines diversity within one such group and what it tells us about changing community’s history. In the conversations of British Punjabis of different ages in London, we find evolving uses of ethnic styles of speaking. These are found to correspond to incremental shifts in the community, over fifty years, toward British gender roles and class positions. Surprisingly, this does not mean that the youngest group uses no ethnic forms at all. In fact they show quite robust and salient use, but their way of using the forms has changed, moving toward more automated and less actively ethnopolitical uses. The case shows that the use and meanings of ethnic accents is ultimately inseparable from other dimensions of social life, such as gender, class, and history.
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