Identifications of Speaker Ethnicity in South-East England: Multicultural London English as a Divisible Perceptual Variety
Proceedings of the LREC 2020 Workshop on "Citizen Linguistics in Language Resource Development"
This study uses crowdsourcing through LanguageARC to collect data on levels of accuracy in the identification of speakers’ ethnicities. Ten participants (5 US; 5 South-East England) classified lexically identical speech stimuli from a corpus of 227 speakers aged 18-33yrs from South-East England into the main “ethnic” groups in Britain: White British, Black British and Asian British. Firstly, the data reveals that there is no significant geographic proximity effect on performance between US and British participants. Secondly, results contribute to recent work suggesting that despite the varying heritages of young, ethnic minority speakers in London, they speak an innovative and emerging variety: Multicultural London English (MLE) (e.g. Cheshire et al., 2011). Countering this, participants found perceptual linguistic differences between speakers of all 3 ethnicities (80.7% accuracy). The highest rate of accuracy (96%) was when identifying the ethnicity of Black British speakers from London whose speech seems to form a distinct, perceptual category. Participants also perform substantially better than chance at identifying Black British and Asian British speakers who are not from London (80% and 60% respectively). This suggests that MLE is not a single, homogeneous variety but instead, there are perceptual linguistic differences by ethnicity which transcend the borders of London.