Skip to main content Accessibility help

‘Our heart is still in Africa’: Twice migration and its sociolinguistic consequences

  • Claudia Rathore-Nigsch (a1) and Daniel Schreier (a2)


This study is a sociophonetic investigation of dialect variation and change in the East African Asian community in Leicester, UK. The community differs from other strands of the British Asian diaspora because of its migration history: a two-stage journey (‘twice migration’) within a few generations, first from the Indian subcontinent to East Africa (late nineteenth century) and from there onward to Britain (early 1970s). We examine variation in the production of the foot, strut, and nurse vowels across two generations of East African Asian migrants with a focus on the usage of originally Indian English features, identity expression, changing sense of belonging, and desire to maintain the original culture from the East African homelands. Our sociolinguistic examination of the speakers’ migration history demonstrates that, despite a strong affiliation with East Africa, first-generation speakers have predominantly maintained Indian English patterns whereas second-generation subjects partake in accommodation to an (educated) variety of East Midlands English. (Twice migration, accommodation, identity, variation and change in the diaspora, foot, strut, and nurse vowels, Indian English, East African English, East Midlands English)*



Hide All
Adank, Patti; Smits, Roel; & van Hout, Roeland (2004). A comparison of vowel normalization procedures for language variation research. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 116:3099–107.
Alam, Farhana, & Stuart-Smith, Jane (2011). Identity and ethnicity in /t/ in Glasgow-Pakistani high-school girls. In Lee & Zee, 216–19.
Baayen, R. H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baayen, R. H. (2011). languageR: Data sets and functions with Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics. R package version 1.4. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013.
Bansal, R. K. (1990). The pronunciation of English in India. In Ramsaran, Susan (ed.), Studies in the pronunciation of English: A commemorative volume in honour of A. C. Gimson, 219–30. London: Routledge.
Bates, Douglas; Martin, Maechler; & Bolker, Ben (2011). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999375-42. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013.
Bhachru, Parminder (1986). Twice migrants: East African Sikh settlers in Britain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Boersma, Paul, & Weenink, David (2010). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. Version 5.1.25. Online:; accessed January 20, 2010.
Britain, David, & Trudgill, Peter (1999). Migration, new-dialect formation and sociolinguistic refunctionalisation: Reallocation as an outcome of dialect contact. Transactions of the Philological Society 97(2):245–56.
Brown, Judith M. (2006). Global South Asians: Introducing the modern diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chambers, Jack (2002). Dynamics of dialect convergence. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6(1):117–30.
Cheshire, Jenny; Kerswill, Paul; Fox, Sue; & Torgersen, Eivind (2011). Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(2):151–96.
CIEFL (1972). The sound system of Indian English. Monograph 7. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages.
Docherty, Gerard J., & Foulkes, Paul (1999). Derby and Newcastle: Instrumental phonetics and variationist studies. In Foulkes, Paul & Docherty, Gerard J. (eds.), Urban voices: Accent studies in the British Isles, 4771. London: Arnold.
Esman, Milton (1996). Diasporas and international relations. In Hutchinson, John & Smith, Anthony D. (eds.), Ethnicity, 316–20. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evans, Bronwen G., & Iverson, Paul (2007). Plasticity in vowel perception and production: A study of accent change in young adults. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121(6):3814–26.
Evans, Bronwen G.; Mistry, Ajay; & Moreiras, Caroline (2007). An acoustic study of first- and second-generation Gujarati immigrants in Wembley: Evidence for accent convergence? In Trouvain & Barry, 1741–44.
Fabricius, Anne H.; Watt;, Dominic & Johnson, Daniel Ezra (2009). A comparison of three speaker-intrinsic vowel formant frequency normalization algorithms for sociophonetics. Language Variation and Change 21(3):413–35.
Flynn, Nicholas E. J. (2011). Comparing vowel formant normalization procedures. York Papers in Linguistics (Series 2) 11:128.
Fox, Susan (2015). The new Cockney: New ethnicities and adolescent speech in the traditional East End of London. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gargesh, Ravinder (2008). Indian English: Phonology. In Mesthrie, Rajend (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia, 231–43. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Gregory, Robert G. (1993). South Asians in East Africa: An economic and social history, 1890–1980. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Gries, Stefan Th. (2009). Statistics for linguistics with R: A practical introduction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Hancock, Ian F., & Angogo, Rachel (1982). English in East Africa. In Bailey, Richard W. & Görlach, Manfred (eds.), English as a world language, 306–23. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Harris, Roxy (2006). New ethnicities and language use. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heselwood, Barry, & McChrystal, Louise (2000). Gender, accent features and voicing in Panjabi-English bilingual children. Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 8:4570.
Hirson, Allen, & Sohail, Nabiah (2007). Variability of rhotics in Punjabi-English bilinguals. In Trouvain & Barry, 1501–1504.
Hoffmann, Thomas (2011). The Black Kenyan English vowel system: An acoustic phonetic analysis. English World-Wide 32(2):147–73.
Hughes, Arthur; Trudgill, Peter; & Watt, Dominic (2005). English accents and dialects: An introduction to social and regional varieties of English in the British Isles. 4th edn.London: Hodder Arnold.
Hundt, Marianne (2014). Home is where you're born: Negotiating identity in the diaspora. Studia Neophilologica 86(2):125–37.
Johnson, Daniel Ezra (2009). Getting off the GoldVarb standard: Introducing Rbrul for mixed-effects variable rule analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass 3(1):359–83.
Johnson, Keith (2008). Quantitative methods in linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Kalra, Virinder S. (2006). United Kingdom. In Lal, Brij V., Reeves, Peter, & Rai, Rajesh (eds.), The encyclopedia of the Indian diaspora, 363–45. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Kendall, Tyler, & Thomas, Erik R. (2010). Vowels: Vowel manipulation, normalization, and plotting. R package version 1.1. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013.
Kerswill, Paul (2010). Contact and new varieties. In Hickey, Raymond (ed.), Blackwell handbook of language contact, 230–51. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kerswill, Paul; Torgersen, Eivind; & Fox, Susan (2008). Reversing ‘drift’: Innovation and diffusion in the London diphthong system. Language Variation and Change 20(3):451–91.
Khan, Arfaan (2006). A sociolinguistic study of Birmingham English: Language variation and change in a multi-ethnic British community. Lancaster: Lancaster University dissertation.
Kirkham, Sam (2011). The acoustics of coronal stops in British Asian English. In Lee & Zee, 1102–5.
Landau, Jacob (1996). Diaspora and language. In Hutchinson, John & Smith, Anthony D. (eds.), Ethnicity, 221–26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lambert, Kirsten; Alam, Farhana; & Stuart-Smith, Jane (2007). Investigating British Asian accents: Studies from Glasgow. In Trouvain & Barry, 1509–11.
Lehmann, Sophia (1998). In search of a mother tongue: Locating home in the diaspora. MELUS 23(4):101118.
Lobanov, Boris M. (1971). Classification of Russian vowels spoken by different speakers. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 49(2):606–8.
MacMahon, Michael K. C. (1999). Phonology. In Romaine, Suzanne (ed.), The Cambridge history of the English language, vol. 4, 1776–1997, 373535. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marett, Valerie (1989). Immigrants settling in the city. London: Leicester University Press.
Marett, Valerie (1993). Resettlement of Ugandan Asians in Leicester. Journal of Refugee Studies 6(3):248–59.
Maxwell, Olga, & Fletcher, Janet (2009). Acoustic and durational properties of Indian English vowels. World Englishes 28(1):5269.
McArthur, Tom (2003). English in India. The Oxford guide to World English, 311–26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McCarthy, Kathleen; Evans, Bronwen G.; & Mahon, Merle (2011). Detailing the phonetic environment: A sociophonetic study of the London Bengali community. In Lee & Zee, 1354–57.
Nihalani, Paroo; Tongue, R. K.; Hosali, Priya; & Crowther, Jonathan (2004). Indian and British English: A handbook of usage and pronunciation. 2nd edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nortier, Jacomine, & Dorleijn, Margreet (2013). Multi-ethnolects: Kebabnorsk, Perkerdansk, Verlan, Kanakensprache, Sztraattaal, etc. In Bakker, Peter & Matras, Yaron (eds.), Contact languages: A comprehensive guide, 229–71. Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
ONS (Office for National Statistics) (2012). Census 2011. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013.
Oonk, Gijsbert (2006). East Africa. In Lal, Brij V., Reeves, Peter, & Rai, Rajesh (eds.), The encyclopedia of the Indian diaspora, 254–62. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Phillips, Deborah (1981). The social and spatial segregation of Asians in Leicester. In Jackson, Peter & Smith, Susan J. (eds.), Social interaction and ethnic segregation, 101–21. London: Academic Press.
R Development Core Team (2011). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013.
Rampton, Ben (1995). Crossing: Language and ethnicity among adolescents. London: Longman.
Rampton, Ben (2011). From ‘multi-ethnic adolescent heteroglossia’ to ‘contemporary urban vernaculars’. Language & Communication 31(4):276–94.
Rathore-Nigsch, Claudia (2014). East African Indian twice migrants in Britain: Phonological variation across generations. In Hundt, Marianne & Sharma, Devyani (eds.), English in the Indian diaspora, 5583. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Rathore-Nigsch, Claudia (2015). Dialect variation and change among twice migrants: A sociophonetic study of the East African Indian community in Leicester, UK. Zurich: University of Zurich dissertation. Online:; accessed August 21, 2015.
Reynolds, Mike, & Verma, Mahendra (2007). Indic languages. In Britain, David (ed.), Language in the British Isles, 293307. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Robinson, Vaughan (1993). Marching into the middle classes? The long-term resettlement of East African Asians in the UK. Journal of Refugee Studies 6(3):230–47.
Safran, William (1991). Diasporas in modern societies: Myths of homeland and return. Journal of Transnational Studies 1(1):8399.
Sahgal, Anju, & Agnihotri, Rama Kant (1988). Indian English phonology: A sociolinguistic perspective. English World-Wide 9(1):5164.
Schmied, Josef (2008). East African English (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania): Phonology. In Mesthrie, Rajend (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia, 150–63. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Schneider, Edgar W. (2004). Global synopsis: Phonetic and phonological variation in English world-wide. In Schneider, Edgar W., Burridge, Kate, Kortmann, Bernd, Mesthrie, Rajend, & Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, vol. 1: Phonology, 1111–37. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Schreier, Daniel (2012). The impact of migratory movements on linguistic systems: Transplanted speech communities and varieties from a historical sociolinguistic perspective. In Hernández-Campoy, Juan Manuel & Conde-Sylvestre, Juan Camilo (eds.), The handbook of historical sociolinguistics, 534–51. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Sharma, Devyani (2011). Style repertoire and social change in British Asian English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(4):464–92.
Sharma, Devyani, & Sankaran, Lavanya (2011). Cognitive and social forces in dialect shift: Gradual change in London Asian speech. Language Variation and Change 23(3):399428.
Simo Bobda, Augustin (2001). East and Southern African English accents. World Englishes 20(3):269–84.
Stuart-Smith, Jane; Timmins, Claire; & Alam, Farhana (2011). Hybridity and ethnic accents: A sociophonetic analysis of ‘Glaswasian’. In Gregersen, Frans, Parrott, Jeffrey K., & Quist, Pia (eds.), Language variation – European perspectives III: Selected papers from the 5th International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 5), Copenhagen, June 2009, 43–57. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Thomas, Erik R. (2011). Sociophonetics: An introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Thomas, Erik R., & Kendall, Tyler (2011). NORM: The vowel normalization and plotting suite. Online:; accessed January 2, 2013).
Torgersen, Eivind; Kerswill, Paul; & Fox, Susan (2006). Ethnicity as a source of changes in the London vowel system. In Hinskens, Frans (ed.), Language variation – European perspectives: Selected papers from the Third International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 3), Amsterdam, June 2005, 249–63. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Trudgill, Peter. (1999). The dialects of England. 2nd edn.Oxford: Blackwell.
Trudgill, Peter, & Hannah, Jean (1994). International English: A guide to varieties of Standard English. 3rd edn.London: Arnold.
Twaddle, Michael (1990). East African Asians through a hundred years. In Clarke, Colin, Peach, Ceri, & Vertovec, Steven (eds.), South Asians overseas: Migration and ethnicity, 149–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wiltshire, Caroline R. (2005). The ‘Indian English’ of Tibeto-Burman language speakers. English World-Wide 26(3):275300.
Wiltshire, Caroline R., & Harnsberger, James D. (2006). The influence of Gujarati and Tamil L1s on Indian English: A preliminary study. World Englishes 25(1):91104.
Wolf, Hans-Georg (2010). East and West African Englishes: Differences and commonalities. In Kirkpatrick, Andy (ed.), The Routledge handbook of world Englishes, 197211. London: Routledge.

‘Our heart is still in Africa’: Twice migration and its sociolinguistic consequences

  • Claudia Rathore-Nigsch (a1) and Daniel Schreier (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.