Language Policy in London

Submitting Institution

University of Westminster

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Language Studies, Linguistics

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Summary of the impact

The work of Professor Philip Baker on the multiple and diverse languages of London has influenced government data-gathering procedure and policy, has contributed to the engagement practices of several London NGOs concerned with racial diversity and bilingualism, and has positively contributed to education relating to multicultural London on teacher-training and medical education programmes.

Underpinning research

Professor Philip Baker conducted the research from 1997 to 2007. Baker joined the Linguistics section, in the then Department of Languages at Westminster, as a full-time Principal Research Fellow in September 1994, and was promoted to Professor of Linguistics (in the Department of English and Linguistics) in August 2006. He retired in April 2008 in order to direct the linguistics press Battlebridge Publications (, which developed out of the Westminster Creolistics series (10 volumes, 1995-2009).

An expert in Indian Ocean, Atlantic and Pacific languages, Baker's work has focused primarily on the emergence and evolution of creoles and pidgins. One of his main concerns has been to develop a theory which explains the complex relation between pidgins and creoles, and sees the formation of creoles as a successful solution to a complicated communication problem between groups of people whose languages were mutually unintelligible (in, for example, both a book chapter on vernacular in 1997 and a key journal article of 2002). This research was undertaken at Westminster from the mid 1990s, in close association with departmental colleague Anand Syea.

Baker's expertise in Creole languages and language contact, and research in linguistic theory and practice, was the foundation for his work on the spoken languages of London. Beginning with a research project, undertaken from 1998-99 with collaborator John Eversley (London Metropolitan University), an academic expert in public policy and community organising, Baker mapped the different languages spoken by London's schoolchildren. This research was the first to identify, collate, and analyse the 300-plus languages spoken in London. The research was published in a field-changing book in 2000, Multilingual Capital, published by Battlebridge.

Baker's research focussed in particular on the significance of multilingualism for social, economic, and educational policy-makers, arguing that the gathering and understanding of data on language use in London was essential for any policy designed to promote equality of opportunity for London's schoolchildren. Two important findings of the research were "(1) that, while having a language other than English as one's mother tongue demands additional resources in schools, multilingualism is an increasingly important economic asset; and (2) that identifying languages spoken by the school population permits a far more detailed and relevant classification into ethnic groups, enabling public services to be targeted more effectively, than does the division into ten ethnic categories used by the census."

The research also showed that some languages are proportionately better represented in London than they are globally, e.g. English-based Creoles and Yoruba, highlighting London's historical migrant origins, and (in policy terms) the significance, for example, of commonwealth connections. The research was large in scale and significance, predating any attempt to map language use by governmental organisations such as the Office for National Statistics or in the decennial Census of Population.

References to the research

1) Philip Baker and John Eversley (eds), Multilingual Capital: The Languages of London's Schoolchildren and Their Relevance to Economic, Social, and Educational Policies (London: Battlebridge, 2000).

2) Philip Baker, "Atlantic, Pacific, and World-wide Features in English-lexicon Contact Languages", English World-Wide 22.2 (2001): 157-208.


3) Philip Baker, "Developing Ways of Writing Vernaculars: Problems and Solutions in a Historical Perspective" in A. Tabouret-Keller, R.B. Le Page, P. Gardner-Chloros and G. Varro (eds), Vernacular Literacy: A Re-Evaluation (Oxford: The Clarendon Press: 1997): 93-141.

This research has numerous indicators of quality, including:

Item 1) Widely cited in academic scholarship on language use, applied linguistics, and ethnicity. Examples of works citing Baker include Kortmann and van der Kuwera, The Languages and Linguistics of Europe, Ellis and McCartney, Applied Linguistics and Primary School Teaching and Julios, Contemporary British Identity.

Items 1&3) peer reviewed publications; entered in RAE2001 as part of a 5-rated Linguistics submission

Item 2) peer reviewed academic journal publication; entered as research output in RAE2008

Details of the impact

The impact of Baker's work from the late 1990s and 2000s has been most significantly registered between the middle of the last decade and the present. Emerging from his extensive knowledge of Indian Ocean creoles, the research resulting from the Languages of London Project (1998-99) — on the languages spoken by London schoolchildren — and published in the collection Multilingual Capital (2000) led to a range of academic, public, and policy-related speaking engagements. Very positively received by the field of applied linguistics (see citations in Section 3), Baker's research reached beyond academia and became a significant resource for multicultural groups such as the Runnymede Trust as well as for government bodies. (See, for example, the then Secretary of State for Education and Skills Jacqui Smith's answer to a parliamentary question, January 30 2006, on language teaching in London, recorded in Hansard, that cites "the survey undertaken in 2000 by Philip Baker"). Baker was also centrally involved in public events such as the Greater London Authority's International Mother Tongue Day, which the then-mayor Ken Livingstone opened in 2006 with a reference to the conclusions of Baker's research as demonstrating that "London's diversity remains one of its greatest strengths, [which] makes it an attractive location for global business". ("International Mother Tongue Day is very relevant to our city ... where 300 languages are spoken"; See `Notes to Editors' in the GLA's press release at: in section 5 below.) Since 2008 the research has achieved considerable impact in government education policy, NGO initiatives and practices, and in higher education teaching.

Impact on Policy:

The data-gathering methods and insights of Baker's research on the variety of languages spoken in London's schools has been of direct benefit to the Department for Education (formerly the DCSF), to Primary Care Trusts, and to local London borough councils. For example, Baker's initial findings inspired, and his methodology provided guidance for, the language component of the Annual School Census, which asked questions about language use for the first time in 2008. Ruth Lupton (LSE) has observed that "it became clear when I became Director of the London Education Research Unit at IOE that there was an appetite for more up to date data and an opportunity to update Baker and Eversley's work with the inclusion of a language question for the first time in the School Census in 2008." Thereafter questions of language use entered the decennial Census of Population (2011), carried out by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of the British Government.

Lupton further noted the importance of Baker's work in this regard when stating that Multilingual Capital "inspired our work ... and was immensely useful to us in developing language classification... used by the ONS in considering how to classify the language data arising from the 2011 census" (see Institute of Education correspondence on Baker's research — 1 below, as well as IoE Working Paper, June 2010 at: These new additions to the census, and how to classify the responses, drew on Baker's language catalogue in Multilingual Capital. Baker's study of the languages of London has therefore had a methodological impact on policy (how to gather data) as well as expanding the range and significance of the data gathered. These innovations have enabled the Department for Education, as well as local borough councils, to make more informed policy decisions on diversity, translation resources, and training within the state sector.

Additionally, the data gathered in the 2011 Census has been used to inform the National Health Service of likely language requirements amongst Primary Care Trust communities and users and to determine the resources required in particular geographical areas of London. This is evidenced in the UPTAP research document, funded by the ESRC, July 2010, which starts out from "the ordering of languages in 1999 from Baker and Eversley (2000)", and which, drawing on this work, also notes the ways in which "language data can potentially offer a finer-grained understanding than has to date been available through the collection of ethnic categories", and thus insight into "who is living in London and their socio-economic circumstances, and how these are changing over time".

Impact on NGOs:

Beyond governmental organisations, Baker's research has been beneficial to various NGOs and their communities of users. Data on the languages of London has been exploited by, for example, the Runnymede Trust-funded asylum and refugee organisation (ICAR) to support their engagements with policymakers on issues of cultural diversity and racial equality. In addition, Baker's research provides a foundation for the policy-focussed interventions of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, the Migration Observatory, and the Bilingualism and Literacies Education Network. For example, the Migration Observatory employ Baker's research in their "policy primer" on London (see 7 below). The Bilingualism and Literacies Education Network use the research to underpin their educational work on linguistic diversity in London. Multilingual Capital has also provided underpinning research for the work of the London SIG (Special Interest Group) Bilingualism in providing resources for speech and language therapists working with children and families from diverse communities (see 9 and 10 below). To cite another example, Baker's research was also used by — a network of researchers and scholars, sponsored by CNRS France and Harvard University, who conduct comparative research on Islam and Muslims in the West and disseminate key information to politicians, media, and the public — for their primer on `Islam in London' ( The website hosts over 50,000 unique visitors each month.

Impact on HE Education:

Baker's research has from the outset made a significant contribution to teacher training and medical education. For example, the University of East London uses Baker's work in its teacher education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels as a starting point for student investigations of diverse language use in London. Raymonde Sneddon of East London's Cass School of Education has confirmed that Multilingual Capital "became the starting point for all sessions on the issue [of multilingualism] ... for courses at undergraduate, PGCE and MA level" (see 2 below). In medical education, too, Baker's work is a cornerstone of clinical medical training programmes on culture and diversity. At University College London, for example, Multilingual Capital is a key text on the BSc in Medical Education and plays an important role in revealing London's multiculturalism to medical students (see 3 below).

Sources to corroborate the impact

1) Correspondence with former Director of the London Education Research Unit at the Institute of Education, corroborating impact of Baker's research in classifying language detail, subsequently utilised by the Office for National Statistics, available on request

2) Affidavit from Cass School of Education, corroborating use of Baker's research as a key reference for the teaching of issues surrounding multiculturalism on undergraduate, PGCE and MA courses, available on request

3) Correspondence from Clinical Medicine Researchers at University College London, corroborating key use of Baker's research on the BSc in Medical Education at UCL, and its crucial role in revealing London's multiculturalism to medical students, available on request

4) Inclusion of Baker and Eversley's Multilingual Capital in research directory of ICAR Information Centre About Asylum and Refugees' (part of the Runnymede Trust) can be seen online at:

5) ESRC-funded policy research by UPTAP on London population trends employing Baker's research can be seen at at:

6) Press releases on International Mother Tongue Day can be found at:

7) References to Baker's research at The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford can be found at:

8) The importance of Baker's research to the Centre for Social Exclusion at London School of Economics can be found in email correspondence available on request.

9) References to Baker's research at the Bilingualism and Literacies Education Network can be found at:

10) Inclusion of Baker's research among references for London SIG Bilingualism website can be found at: