London: The cockney accent is being pushed out of its heartland by a new kind of speech. The playgrounds and housing estates of London are alive with the sound of an accent that sounds Jamaican as much as anything, with added flavours from West Africa and India.
The Evening Standard can reveal that groundbreaking research shows this new English variety is replacing cockney in inner London, pushing the accent that has dominated for centuries out to the edge of the capital and beyond, as more white children adopt the speech patterns and vocabulary of their black neighbours and classmates.
Teachers have dubbed the phenomenon Jafaican and TV's Ali G would understand it perfectly.
Linguistics experts from London University's Queen Mary College and Lancaster University are conducting field studies to assess the new variety of English and how widely it is spoken.
Queen Mary researcher Sue Fox said: "It is certainly different to the traditional cockney model that one might expect to hear in the area and it is an accent that seems to have been influenced by Jamaican, Indian-subcontinent and west-African English.
"The adolescents who use this accent are those of second- or third-generation immigrant background, followed by whites of London origin.
"Our sample includes teenagers with West Indian, South American, Arab, West African and London backgrounds."
Based on their preliminary findings, the academics are calling it "multicultural London English".
It has a distinctive sound and its vocabulary includes many words lifted straight from Jamaican patois. Traditional long cockney vowel sounds, which make a word like "face" sound like "faice" when spoken, are getting shorter, so the new sound is closer to "fehs".
Ms Fox stressed it was wrong to see street talk as white youngsters trying to be cool: the change was more complex and deeply rooted.
"It seems more likely that young people have been growing up in London being exposed to a mixture of second-language English and local London English and that this new variety has emerged from that mix."
Ms Fox said one young girl from outer London had told researchers about her eight-year-old cousin who lived in the inner part of the capital: "People say he speaks like a black boy but he just speaks like a London boy."
Ms Fox said: "The message is people are beginning to sound the same regardless of their colour or ethnic background."
London's increasingly multiracial schools are helping to spread street talk.
But Gary Philips, head of Lilian Baylis in Kennington, said it is not allowed in his classrooms.
"You can speak how you want to friends in the playground but in the classroom standard English is important because that is what they are being marked for in exams."