Received Pronunciation: Historical Background and Application
The Evolution of Received Pronunciation. The origin of Received Pronunciation and its definitions. Received Pronunciation and Non–Received Pronunciation: similarities and difference. Changes in the standard. Regional Non–Received Pronunciation accents.
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ARTSAKH STATE UNIVERSITY
English Language Department
A Thesis to Acquire Master's Degree
Received Pronunciation: Historical Background and Application
Performer: Hamest Mkrtchyan
Superviser: Narine Hairiyan
Chapter I. The Evolution of Received Pronunciation
1.1 Spread of English
1.2 The origin of RP and its definitions
Chapter II RP and Non-RP: similarities and difference
2.1 Changes in the standard
2.2 Regional Non-RP accents
2.3 The American variant of English
The term “Received Pronunciation” (RP) has in the course of this century come to designate-at least among linguists and EFL teachers-the British English style of pronunciation that carries the highest overt prestige. It's generally agreed that it has long lost all associations with its regional origin (London and the south-east of England) and is now purely a class dialect or a sociolect. As such the term is often used synonymously with “Standard pronunciation” or at any rate taken to represent some sort of standard, at least for British English. This paper proposes to look at the phenomenon “RP” from different perspectives, trying to pin it down, numerous descriptions have been published of this style, and endless material has been produced on its status, significance, and ongoing changes. Descriptions have almost exclusively been of the segmental order, and it's debatable whether this does justice to any speech style.
Traditionally, RP is a manufactured accent of English which was published as “the everyday speech of families of Southern English persons whose men folk have been educated at the great public boarding schools” (Daniel Jones 1965).
The actuality of the theme chosen is explained by the importance of linguistic option and usage of RP in a particular social group.
The object of our thesis is Phonology.
The subject is Received Pronunciation and its usage in particular social groups.
The aims of our research work are:
- to investigate linguistic peculiarities of Received Pronunciation in the English language,
- to reveal phonological similarities and differences of some Non-RPs and American variant of English.
To achieve our aims we have put forward the following tasks:
- to study the scholars' view points on RP definitions,
- to display sociolinguistic aspects of RP,
- to compare RP with non - RP.
In order to solve these tasks we have used empirical methods, methods of observation, comparison. As a theoretical background we used the works of such scholars as J. Fisher (1993), J. Ellis (1869) A. Gimson (1964), A. Hughes (1997), P.Trudgill (1997), A. Shweitzer (1983), and some others.
The practical significance of the research is in possible application of the results of our investigation in practical and theoretical classes and seminars on phonetics, lexicology, history of the English language by people who study the problem of functional usage of Standard English.
The scientific novelty of our research is in revealing the distinguishing features of Standard English as RP and some Non-RPs, particularly GA, through their comparative analysis.
Our research work consists of the introduction, two chapters, the conclusion and the bibliography.
The first part of this paper includes mostly the theory, i.e the history and development of RP, worked out by such linguists as D. Jones, D. Crystal, J. Wells, A.J. Ellis, J. Walker and some others.
RP is a young accent in linguistic terms. It was not around, for example, when Dr Johnson wrote “A Dictionary of the English language” in 1757.
The phrase “Received Pronunciation” was coined in 1869 by the linguist A.J. Ellis (1969), but it only became a widely used term used to describe the accent of the social elite after the phonetician D. Jones (1924) adopted it for the second edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary. Our purpose is to discuss how recent a development of RP is, and whether it's really anything new at all, or just a name. We pay attention to the evolution of RP, comment on the differences between BBC English, the Queen's English and Public School English.
A great importance is also given to a new kind of generic southern accent: Estuary English, which admits people to the inner circle and acts as a “class barrier”. It's interesting to note that Margaret Thatcher adopted RP to appear more educated, power, and authoritative to the electorate, while Tony Blair has swapped RP for Estuary English in an attempt to identify more closely with the people he represents. British phoneticians A.C Gimson (1964), A. C. Hughes (1997), estimate that nowadays RP is not homogenous. A.C. Gimson suggests generally distinguish between three different forms of RP: conservative, general, and advanced.
The second chapter deals with changes in the standard: both diachronic and synchronic. We study non - RP accents of England, American variant of English and their difference from and relationship to RP. We explore some remarkable similarities between phonological data collected by L. Mugglestone (2003), A. D. Shweitzer (1195). As for American variant we must say that it has been very thoroughly described by many prominent scholars both in the UK and in the USA. In this research work, however, we try to follow the conception introduced by A.D. Shweitzer (1195) in his sociolinguistic approach to the treatment of contemporary speech situation in America. American English has drifted considerably from English though as yet not enough to give us ground to speak of two different languages. Thus we speak of the national variant of English in America.
Chapter I. The Evolution of Received Pronunciation
1.1 Spread of English
The varieties of the language are conditioned by language communities ranging from small groups to nations. Now speaking about the nations we refer to the national variants of the language. In then-treatment we follow the conception of A. D. Schweitzer. According to him national language is a historical category, evolving from conditions of economic and political concentration, which characterizes the formation of a nation. In other words national language is the language of a nation, the standard of its form, the language of a nation's literature (A. D. Schweitzer, 1983: p.304).
It is common knowledge that language exists in two forms: written and spoken. Any manifestation of language by means of speech is the result of a highly complicated series of events. The literary spoken form has its national pronunciation standard. A “standard” may be defined as “a socially accepted variety of a language established by a codified norm of correctness” (D. Jones, 1965, p. 537).
Today all the English-speaking nations have their own national variants of pronunciation and each of them has peculiar features that distinguish it from other varieties of English. It is generally accepted that for the “English English” it is “Received Pronunciation” or RP, for “The American English” - “General American pronunciation”. Standard national pronunciation is sometimes called an orthoepic norm. Some phoneticians, however, prefer the term literary pronunciation.
Though every national variant of English has considerable differences in pronunciation, lexis and grammar, they all have much in common which gives us ground to speak of one and the same language - the English language. It would not be true to say that national standards are fixed and immutable. They undergo constant changes due to various internal and external factors. Pronunciation, above all, is subject to all kinds of innovations. Therefore the national variants of English differ primarily in sound, stress and intonation. It is well-known that there are countries with more than one national language, the most common case being the existence of two national languages on the same territory. For this Canada will be an example, where two different languages - English and French - form the repertoire of the community. In this case scholars speak about bilingualism in contrast to monolingualism typical of a country with one national language. Here arises the problem of interference, that is linguistic disturbance which results from two languages (or dialects), coming into contact in a specific situation. It may be well to state that every national variety of the language falls into territorial or regional dialects. Dialects are distinguished from each other by differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. We must make clear that, when we refer to varieties in pronunciation only, we use the word accent (A. Hughes, P.Trudgill, 1979, p.457). So local accents may have many features of pronunciation in common and consequently are grouped into territorial or area accents. In Britain, for example, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire accents form the group of Northern accent. We must admit, however, that in most textbooks on phonetics the word dialect is still used in reference to the regional pronunciation peculiarities, though in the latest editions both in the UK and abroad the difference in terms dialects and accents is generally accepted. As we see, those terms should be treated differently when related to different aspects of the language. It is, however, true that there is a great deal of overlap between these terms. For certain geographical, economic, political and cultural reasons one of the dialects becomes the standard language of the nation and its pronunciation or its accent - the received standard pronunciation. This was the case of London dialect, whose accent became the RP of Britain.
As a result of certain social factors in the post-war period - the growing urbanization, spread of education and the impact of mass media, Standard English is exerting an increasing powerful influence on the regional dialects of Great Britain. Recent surveys of British English dialects have revealed that the pressure of Standard English is so strong that many people are bilingual in a sense that they use an imitation of RP with their teachers and lapse into their native local accent when speaking among themselves. In this occasion the term diglossia should be introduced to denote a state of linguistic duality in which the standard literary form of a language and one of its regional dialects are used by the same individual in different social situations. This phenomenon should not be mixed up with bilingualism that is the command of two different languages. In the case of both diglossia and bilingualism the so-called code-switching takes place. In recent years the effect of these forms of linguistic behavior is studied by sociolinguists and psychologists.
As was stated above, language, and especially its oral aspect varies with respect to the social context in which it is used. The social differentiation of language is closely connected with the social differentiation of society. Nevertheless, linguistic facts cannot be attributed directly to class structure. According to A.D. Schweitzer “the impact of social factors on language is not confined to linguistic reflexes of class structure and should be examined with due regard for the meditating role of all class-derived elements - social groups, strata, occupational, cultural and other groups including primary units (small groups)” (1983: p.541).
Western sociolinguists such as A.D. Grimshaw (1976), J F. Z. Fisher (1993), B. Bernstein (1971), M. Gregory (1967), S. Carroll (1978), A. Hughes (1979), P. Trudgill (1992) and others, are oriented towards small groups, viewing them as “microcosms” of the entire society. Soviet sociolinguists recognize the influence of society upon language by means of both micro - and macro-sociological factors.
It is common knowledge that over 300 million people now speak English as first language. It is the national language of Great Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. English was originally spoken in England and south-eastern Scotland. Then it was introduced into the greater part of Scotland and southern Ireland. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was brought to North America (mainly from the West of England). Later in the 18th and 19th centuries English was exported to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa owing to the colonial expansion. A flow of emigrants who went to invade, explore and inhabit those lands came mostly from the south-eastern parts of England. English became wide-spread in Wales at about the same time. Welsh English is very similar to southern English, although the influence of Welsh has played a role in its formation. Then in the 20th century American English began to spread in Canada, Latin America, on the Bermudas, and in other parts of the world. Thus nowadays two main types of English are spoken in the English-speaking world: English and American English. English is the most widely spoken language next to Spanish. Over fifty-two countries have English as their official language. English is spoken in countries like India, Singapore and small islands nations like Fiji Islands. There is strong indication that English will continue to dominate the business world and other social functions which further reinforced the concept that English is a wide spread language indeed. The English language today is being spoken globally and there are several explanations why this is so. The first and well-known reason for its prevalence is that English is the official language of England. England or Great Britain built one of the largest empires in this world and in the height of their dominance, they spread their language and customs to the people they ruled. Another factor for the languages ascendancy is that other non-English speaking nations have officially made English as their second language. They have come to realize that English is very useful in business affairs and beneficial to their country as far as beckoning visitors and for that, the English language is regarded one of the successful contributions that England made to the world. With globalization of English under way, there is concern expressed that this tendency might result in the loss of cultural identity by speakers of global English. The fear is that inhabitants of the Global village will have lost in the long run their proof of belonging to their original social culture. Here is some data about Global English: Today one out of five of the world population speaks English. Over 70% of the worlds scientists read English. About 85% of the world's mail is written in English, 90% of all information in the worlds electronic retrieval systems is stored in English. (Journal of International Phonetic Association,1983, p. 19) The English language is spoken in many different forms or dialects. Each dialect is unique due to the pronunciation of the words, the special terms added, and in some cases, the grammatical rules that were applied. According to British dialectologists P. Trudgill (1992), J. Hannah (1982), A. Hughes (1997) and others the following variants of English are referred to the English-based group: English, Welsh English, Australian English, New Zealand English; to the American-based group: United States English, Canadian English. Scottish English and Irish English fall somewhere between the two being somewhat by themselves. On the whole this division seems rather reasonable and the “English” types of English will be treated first in this work, though it is safe to say that English, Welsh English, Scottish English and Northern Ireland English should be better combined into the British English subgroup, on the ground of political, geographical, cultural, psychological unity which brought more similarities than differences for those variants of pronunciation.
As was mentioned before, BEPS (British English Pronunciation Standards and Accents) comprise English English, Welsh English, Scottish English and Northern Ireland English (the corresponding abbreviations are EE, WE, SCE, NIE).
Table1. British English Accents
Northern Ireland English
2. East Anglia 3. South-West
2. Yorkshire 3. North
1.2 The origin of Received Pronunciation and it's Definitions
The industrial revolution had borne a British middle-class eager to distance itself from all grubby working-class connotations of intellectual and social inferiority. In 1891, the elocutionist Arthur Burrell pointed out to his readers that “it is the business of educated people to speak so that no one may be able to tell in what county their childhood was passed” (Journal of International Phonetic Association, 1987: p.21). A regional accent was regarded as a social disadvantage. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was founded in 1922. From the start, the nature and characteristics of the voices heard on the airwaves was a matter of hot contention. John Reith, the first Director General said: “One hears the most appalling travesties of vowel pronunciation. This is a matter in which broadcasting can be of immense assistance. We have made a special effort to secure in our various stations men who can be relied upon to employ the correct pronunciation of the English tongue” (Journal of International Phonetic Association, 1987: p. 22). The BBC cast itself as the guardian of Received Pronunciation and had a policy of only employing RP speakers as announcers and news-readers. In 1926 the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English was established. Regional voices were used, but were only really heard in comedy and light entertainment shows, making jokes that reinforced social and cultural stereotypes. RP was regarded as the voice of authority, used for all “serious” broadcasting and the national news. And in a move that reflected the spirit of the age and its deference to status and status-consciousness, news announcers were required, from 1925, to wear dinner jackets while broadcasting. In 1941 the BBC hired Wilfred Pickles - a Yorkshire man with a broad Halifax accent - to read the news. There was a flurry of complaints. Listeners claimed they didn't believe what he was telling them; they thought he was untrustworthy. The BBC's motives for using Pickles as a London announcer in the middle of the Second World War also gives an insight into the prejudices and assumptions made about regional accent speakers; the BBC thought the Germans would have greater difficulty in understanding and imitating a Yorkshire man. As W. Pickles noted in his autobiography: “The BBC's standard English had become a firmly rooted national institution like cricket and the pub and, Hitler or no Hitler, it meant something when there was a threat of departure from the habit” (1949: p. 46).
In this chapter we are going to look in greater detail at the Received Pronunciation. This paper proposes to look at the phenomenon Received Pronunciation from different perspectives, trying to pin it down. Descriptions have almost exclusively been of the segmental order, and it is debatable whether this does justice to any speech style. Recently, another label was made available to the public: Estuary English (EE) stands for an accent or a range of accents, which is definitely regarded as down-market from RP but has similar regional origins as the latter (London and the South-East) and which, because of its ever growing popularity, is thought to pose a serious threat to the hegemony of RP as the standard or reference accent for British English. Estuary English admits people to the inner circle and acts as a “class barrier”. It's interesting to note that Margaret Thatcher adopted RP to appear more educated, powerful and authoritative to the electorate, while Tony Blair has swapped RP for Estuary English in an attempt to identify more closely with the people he represents. For advertising media though, Estuary English probably wouldn't cut it. It wouldn't be “posh” enough, credible enough. Of course there are regional accents used in advertising. In Britain today, RP is still generally regarded as the voice of authority, the voice we trust, the voice we most want to be like, and certainly the voice we usually choose to endorse our marketing.
Every now and again, “public opinion” goes into an emotional spasm about the states of the language. It has not always been clear what exactly the standard is that people have made appeal to, but “RP” has served as one label among others for a speech style that is considered educated, non-regional and generally desirable, and taken to denote a standard, although officially there is no such a standard. Indeed, it is highly questionable whether there can be such a thing as a standard of pronunciation, since a standard must by definition be constant, whereas the pronunciation of any language is subject to fashion and change and thus forever elusive. That which is labeled “RP” in particular is subject to numerous manifestations. A number of arguments have become stock-in-trade for the pro-RP, prostandard, faction. They are, not only that it is widely understood, but also that it is the only accent that can be generally understood at all; that it is more universally accepted and less offensive to the majority of people than any other English accent; that it is more articulate, clearer, and even more pleasing aesthetically than any other form of spoken English. Conversely, others have maintained that RP is a degenerate and debased form of English, unfit to be a world language. Some of these arguments will be discussed.
The study of the accent as a class marker and the evaluation of different styles of speech is really a matter for social psychology, but since so much work has been done on this aspect of RP, and since it is really at the heart of the linguistic debate also, it will be extensively treated in this paper. The first use of the epithet “received” for the polite pronunciation current in the educated classes is usually attributed to A. J. Ellis (1869: p. 89), but J. H. Fisher (1993: p. 161) traces it back to John Walker's “Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language” (1826). J.A Walker claims that London pronunciation is “undoubtedly the best... that is, not only the best by courtesy, and because it happens to be the pronunciation of the capital, but best by a better title, that of being more generally received”. (1826: p.567) J. H. Fisher (1993: p.161) showed that this pronunciation (of the court and the central administration in London) had always been a class accent, but had also been a regional accent until the 18th century. In other words that it was confined to London and the south-east of England. Although this speech had thus acquired early prestige, it was for a long time still nothing unusual even for courtiers to speak with a provincial accent. English writings with an interest in pronunciation began to appear in the 16th century, at a time when the pronunciation, after what was later to become known as the “Great Vowel Shift”, had diverged so much from the spelling that the latter ceased to be a guide to the former and alternative orthographic systems were being sought. The first systematic pronouncing dictionaries, however, did not appear until the 18th century, which was also the century of the great normative grammarians. J. A. Walker was preceded by Thomas Sheridan's edition of D. Jones's dictionary marked for pronunciation. D. Jones (1865: p.537) himself had refrained from including pronunciation in his dictionary because he found himself unable to “ascertain” pronunciations that were generally accepted. It may be noted that Sheridan, as other compilers of pronouncing dictionaries after him, based his dictionary on his own pronunciation. D. Jones (1985, p.542), on the contrary, had apparently sought the opinion of people who could be assumed to be good speakers and had abandoned hope in the face of widely divergent testimonies. No doubt the Industrial Revolution was instrumental in bringing to fame and fortune “new men”, who were not able to converse and write in any other language than English. According to J. H. Fisher, the speech of educated London ceased to be a regional dialect when London became more important as a centre; this is presumably bound up with increased mobility (physical and social) as a consequence of improved infrastructure and in the course of progressive industrialization, which created fast growing industrial conurbations, the places that have produced the most notorious accents (1993: p.163).
The name “received pronunciation” was used by A. J. Ellis (1969: p.89), to describe the speech of educated and polite society. “Received” here means “agreed upon by those fit to judge”. The word is sometimes taken to mean received socially, as in the leading drawing rooms. This interpretation tempts L. Macaulay (1988: p.54) to ridicule it as “a rather absurd, almost comic term, with the implication that lacking it one would not be welcome at court”. It is similarly glossed by N. C. Scott as “English suitable to be received by royalty in court”. (1995: p.371). This interpretation is the one current today. At the time when it was first introduced, it may be noted, it makes no claim for the accent so described to be a general model. It should, however, be clear that received was originally an epithet that expressed exactly what it meant to express. It has become increasingly unpopular in the last few decades, because it is felt that it is indicative of the sort of class prejudice that modern society prides itself on having.
As in all European countries, speakers with a higher level of education and higher-paid jobs speak in a manner that is closer to the standard language than do other people. This happens in a social and political environment where there is a strong economic and social elite which has associations with political and economic power. Usually, the written word is held up as a type of benchmark, or 'standard', against which good and bad language is measured. Command of the written word has always been important for the maintenance of these elites, but it is even more important nowadays with the increase of written communication via e-mail and the Internet. In a very real sense, if you want to be socially and economically upwardly mobile, you need a high level of literacy and a good command of a form of the spoken language which is close to written, literate norms.
Received Pronunciation, is the instantly recognizable accent often described as `typically British”. Popular terms for this accent, such as “The Queen's English”, “Oxford English” or “BBC English” are all a little misleading. The Queen, for instance, speaks an almost unique form of English, while the English we hear at Oxford University or on the BBC is no longer restricted to one type of accent. RP is an accent, not a dialect, since all RP speakers speak Standard English. In other words, they avoid non-standard grammatical constructions and localized vocabulary characteristic of regional dialects. RP is also regionally non-specific, that is it does not contain any clues about a speaker's geographic background. But it does reveal a great deal about their social and or educational background.
RP is a standard form of written English, in the sense of a variety whose geographical provenance is undetectable, had its origins in developments in the 1420s in the central government bureaucracy in the capital, and, as L. Mugglestone confirms in this paper, was "clearly in existence" by the late 17th century. But, as with many other European languages, a standard variety of spoken English took much longer to emerge. Nevertheless, over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, a clear sense of an emergent standard of spoken as well as written English" became perceptible (1995: p. 56). This interesting and valuable paper, now, tells the story of how that perception became widespread, to the point of establishing RP as the hypothetical model of present-day British English, at least as taught to foreign learners.
L. Mugglestone's account, however, also opens up a number of serious and disputable issues which it is the intention of this paper to explore. Most of the elements of the standard accent were in place by the end of the 18th century, and in the period 1760 to 1800 five times as many works on elocution appeared as had done so before those years. L. Mugglestone suggests that initially the intention of these authors was simply description, or at most consciousness-raising in regard to accent, but that into the 19th century the tide of prescription became ever stronger (1995: p.71).
In his English Pronouncing Dictionary Daniel Jones defines RP as “the everyday speech of families of Southern English persons whose men folk were educated in the great public boarding schools”. (1917, p. 537) It was standard practice until the 1950s for university students to adjust their regional accents to be closer to RP. RP was traditionally used on stage, for public speaking, and by the well-educated. In the 1950s, RP was used by the BBC as a broadcast standard and was referred to as BBC English. Since the 1970s, the BBC label has been dropped and RP has slowly been more inclusive of regional influences throughout the United Kingdom. By the turn of the twenty-first century RP was spoken by only 3 percent of the population. Today BBC broadcasters do not use Received Pronunciation, which actually today now sounds out of place; they use a neutralized version of their own regional accents that is intelligible to all listeners.” (Kathryn Labouff “Singing and Communicating in English, Oxford Univ. Press, 2007).
We are using the top definition but there are more questions than answers. “Educated” would once have been seen as “privately educated”. RP and Public School pronunciation would once have been seen as identical. Graduates of Oxbridge would once nearly all have been from public schools. A public school accent, however strangled and artificial, would once have been deemed correct by definition. But no longer, the old public school accent could not be called RP of these days if the term is to have any meaning - it is certainly not the standard for teaching English to foreign learners. RP is probably the most widely studied and most frequently described variety of spoken English in the world, yet recent estimates suggest only 2% of the UK population speak it. It has a negligible presence in Scotland and Northern Ireland and is arguably losing its prestige status in Wales. It should properly, therefore, be described as an English, rather than a British accent. As well as being a living accent, RP is also a theoretical linguistic concept. It is the accent on which phonemic transcriptions in dictionaries are based, and it is widely used (in competition with General American) for teaching English as a foreign language. RP is included here as a case study, not to imply it has greater merit than any other English accent, but because it provides us with an extremely familiar model against which comparisons with other accents may be made. David Crystal (1995: p.65) has the following to say about it: “The British phonetician Daniel S. Jones (1965: p.537) was the first to codify the properties of RP. It was not a label he much liked, as he explains in an Outline of English Phonetics (1918)”. “I do not consider it possible at the present time to regard any special type as “Standard” or as intrinsically better than other types. Nevertheless, the type described in this book is certainly a useful one. It is based on my own (Southern) speech, and is, as far as I can ascertain, that generally used by those who have been educated at preparatory boarding schools and the Public Schools” (D. Jones 1986: p. 632).
The term Received Pronunciation is often used to designate this type of pronunciation. This term is adopted here for want of a better. The historical linguist H. C. Wyld also made much use of the term “received” in “A Short History of English”: “It is proposed to use the term Received Standard for that form which I would probably agree in considering the best, that form which has the widest currency and is heard with practically no variation among speakers of the better class all over the country” (H. C. Wyld 1963: p. 370). The previous usage to which D. Jones (1965) refers can be traced back to the dialectologist A. J. Ellis: “In the present day we may, however, recognize a received pronunciation all over the country. It may be especially considered as the educated pronunciation of the metropolis, of the court, the pulpit, and the bar (1869: p.167). Even then, there were signs of the future, for he goes on to say: But in as much as all these localities and professions are recruited from the provinces, there will be a varied thread of provincial utterance running through the whole. RP has certainly changed in my lifetime, as anyone can verify by watching old wartime propaganda films and newsreels and listening to the way the officers spoke. That was the form known as “marked RP”, which has virtually disappeared today, and has been modified even in the speech of the Queen and other members of the old aristocracy” (A. J. Ellis, 1869: p.175).
BBC pronunciation is now very different from BBC pronunciation 50 years ago. The relationship between RP, BBC English, Oxford English, The Queen's English and Public School English is controversial. Some would see them as synonymous. Others wouldn't. Many would now see the old BBC English as a rather inward-looking, artificial, trying to pass itself off as "correct" English pronunciation - a tool by which entry to such as the BBC was restricted to those of the right background by those of similar background. Broadcasters who still use that accent now sound like fish out of water or the Shadow Cabinet, which amounts to the same thing. The Queen has moderated her accent considerably.
RP was never formally created or enforced (unlike France or Italy). It grew out of the middle class version of the London/South Eastern dialect, no doubt aided by the increasing social mobility of the 19th century which led people to be concerned about talking and writing correctly. Hence, the explosion in the popularity of grammars and dictionaries and the increasing tendency for dialects to be despised and suppressed. Well, into the 19th century, however, the upper classes were still talking with a variety of regional accents. The catalyst for the creation of a distinct and universal Public School accent seems to have been the 1874 Education Act. Education was to be available to all so the upper/middle classes and new rich needed other cultural badges to distinguish themselves from those pushing up from below. An expensive education had to show itself in the way you talked. In modern times I would say that "correct" Standard English pronunciation, such as foreigners learn at school, is rather flatter and more muted than Public School English.
Probably the context in which RP is most widely used is the academic world. Teachers of English as a Foreign Language were mentioned above but the great majority of school teachers within Britain, whether they have regional accents or not, will tend to speak in an accent as close as possible to RP in order to communicate effectively. This is not to say that a regional accent should be a barrier to their ability to teach, but nonetheless RP is considered appropriate in the classroom, particularly in higher education. University lecturers want to convey new information to a large number of students simultaneously, often involving complex ideas. In such a context, we can see the value of an exceptionally clear and universally understood standard pronunciation. Students need not imitate this accent in order to assimilate the information but the fact that it is expressed in RP may well help them to understand more easily. Perhaps surprisingly, one group of speakers who will tend to stay close to RP are those who have learnt English as a second language and achieved a high level of fluency. It is usually quite noticeable because so few native-speakers speak so clearly. People who have learnt English are unlikely to adopt linguistic habits that diverge from RP, because they learnt the RP standard pronunciation. Of course, a non-native speaker of English can develop a regional accent, if, for instance, they came to an area with little or no knowledge of English and learnt the language entirely in that region.
Commentary on the differences between "BBC English", "The Queen's English", and "Public School English". These are all different names for variants of the basic "Standard British English", except perhaps for so-called "public-school English", which often seems to be an exaggerated form of the others. There may be slight differences but they are minimal.On beginners' cassettes using British English they often use speakers with more or less standard pronunciations.
The standard pronunciation used is the one recorded in the dictionaries.
We can trace the origins of RP back to the public schools and universities of nineteenth-century Britain - indeed D. Jones (1965, p. 537) initially used the term Public School Pronunciation to describe this emerging, socially exclusive accent. Over the course of that century, members of the ruling and privileged classes increasingly attended boarding schools such as Winchester, Eton, Harrow and Rugby and graduated from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Their speech patterns - based loosely on the local accent of the south-east Midlands (roughly London, Oxford and Cambridge) - soon came to be associated with “The Establishment” and therefore gained a unique status, particularly within the middle classes in London. RP probably received its greatest impetus, however, when Lord Reith, the first General Manager of the BBC, adopted it in 1922 as a broadcasting standard - hence the origins of the term BBC English. D. Reith (1970, p. 164) believed Standard English, spoken with an RP accent, would be the most widely understood variety of English, both here in the UK and overseas. He was also conscious that choosing a regional accent might run the risk of alienating some listeners. To a certain extent Reith's decision was understandable, and his attitude only reflected the social climate at the time. But since RP was the preserve of the aristocracy and expensive public schools, it represented only a very small social minority. This policy prevailed at the BBC for a considerable time and probably contributed to the sometimes negative perception of regional varieties of English.A speaker who uses numerous very localized pronunciations is often described as having a “broad” or “strong” regional accent, while terms such as “mild” or “soft” are applied to speakers whose speech patterns are only subtly different from RP speakers. So, we might describe one speaker as having a broad Glaswegian accent and another as having a mild Scottish accent. Such terms are inadequate when applied to Received Pronunciation, although as with any variety of English, RP encompasses a wide variety of speakers and should not be confused with the notion of `posh' speech. British phoneticians Ch. Bauer (1985), A.C. Gimson (1964), A. Hughes (1997) and P. Trudgill (1955) estimate that nowadays RP is not homogeneous. A.C. Gimson (1964: p.p 131-136) suggests that it is convenient to distinguish three main types within it: the conservative RP forms, used by the older generation, and, traditionally, by certain profession or social groups; the general RP forms, most commonly in use and typified by the pronunciation adopted by the BBC, and the advanced RP forms, mainly used by young people of exclusive social groups - mostly of the upper classes, but also for prestige value, in certain professional circles. This last type of RP reflects the tendencies typical of changes in pronunciation. It is the most effected and exaggerated variety of the accent. Some of its features may be results of temporary fashion; some are adopted as a norm and described in the latest textbooks. Therefore, it is very important for a teacher and learner of English to distinguish between the two. RP speakers make up a very small percentage of the English population. Many native speakers, especially teachers of English and professors of colleges and universities (particularly from the South and South-East of England) have accents closely resembling RP but not identical to it. P. Trudgill and J. Hannah (1931) call it Near-RP southern. So various types of standard English pronunciation may be summarized as follows: Conservative RP; General RP; Advanced RP; Near-RP southern. All, however, are united by the fact they do not use any pronunciation patterns that allow us to make assumptions. Like any other accent, RP has also changed over the course of time. The voices we associate with early BBC broadcasts, for instance, now sound extremely old-fashioned to most. Just as RP is constantly evolving, so our attitudes towards the accent are changing. For much of the twentieth century, RP represented the voice of education, authority, social status and economic power. The period immediately after the Second World War was a time when educational and social advancement suddenly became a possibility for many more people. Those who were able to take advantage of these opportunities - be it in terms of education or career - often felt under considerable pressure to conform linguistically and thus adopt the accent of the establishment or at least modify their speech towards RP norms. In recent years, however, as a result of continued social change, virtually every accent is represented in all walks of life to which people aspire - sport, the arts, the media, business, even former strongholds of RP England, such as the City, Civil Service and academia. As a result, fewer younger speakers with regional accents consider it necessary to adapt their speech to the same extent. Indeed many commentators even suggest that younger RP speakers often go to great lengths to disguise their middle-class accent by in RP probably received its greatest impetus, however, when Lord Reith, the first General Manager of the BBC, adopted it in 1922 as a broadcasting standard - hence the origins of the term BBC English. Reith believed Standard English, spoken with an RP accent, would be the most widely understood variety of English, both in the UK and overseas. He was also conscious that choosing a regional accent might run the risk of alienating some listeners. To a certain extent D. Reith's (1970: p. 203) decision was understandable, and his attitude only reflected the social climate at the time. But since RP was the preserve of the aristocracy and expensive public schools, it represented only a very small social minority. This policy prevailed at the BBC for a considerable time and probably contributed to the sometimes negative perception of regional varieties of English.
To sum up all afore said We would like to emphasize that RP is the standardized accent of English and not SE itself, which can be defined as English suitable to be received by royality in court. This interpretation is the one current today. (N. C. Scott 1997: p. 371). Its primary function will be that of the most widely understood and generally acceptable form of speech within Britain, which can serve as an efficient and common means of oral communication, whether or not this speech style carries with it social prestige. But in addition and more importantly for the future, this standard form of British speech can function as one of the principle models for users of English throughout the world.
Chapter II. RP and Non-RP: Similarities and Differences
2.1 Changes in the Standard
As was stated above, changes in the standard may be traced in the speech of the younger generation of native RP speakers. These changes may affect all the features of articulation of vowel and consonant phonemes and also the prosodic system of the language. Like any other accent, RP has changed over time. We know that from hearing the old news broadcasts of the BBC. You can also hear it in Angelina Jolie's character in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, who speaks in an RP from the 1930s. So RP is not some timeless accent. It changes like everything else. The voices we associate with early BBC broadcasts, for instance, now sound extremely old-fashioned to most. Just as RP is constantly evolving, so our attitudes towards the accent are changing. For much of the twentieth century, RP represented the voice of education, authority, social status and economic power. The period immediately after the Second World War was a time when educational and social advancement suddenly became a possibility for many more people. Those who were able to take advantage of these opportunities -- be it in terms of education or career -- often felt under considerable pressure to conform linguistically and thus adopt the accent of the establishment or at least modify their speech towards RP norms. Considerable changes are observed in the sound system of the pre-sent-day English, which are most remarkable since the well-known Great Vowel Shift in the Middle English period of the language development. It is a well-established fact that no linguistic modification can occur all of a sudden. The appearance of a new shade in the pronunciation of a sound results in the coexistence of free variants in the realization of a phoneme. The choice between permissible variants of [w] or [m] in words is an illustration of what is meant by the process of variability and free variants. In Russian we observe free variants of the pronunciation of the words of ýíåðãèÿ, òåìï type: non-palatalized and palatalized versions of [h] - [h'] and [t] - [t']. The degrees of variability are different. The most perceptible and stable changes are described in the works of British linguists and have been investigated by Soviet phoneticians. The RP of recent years is characterized by a greater amount of permissible variants compared to the “classical” type of RP described by D. Jones (1965), H. C. Wyld. (1963).
The phenomenon is significant both from the theoretical and practical viewpoint. The variability concerns mainly vowels. Most of English vowels have undergone definite qualitative changes. The newly appeared variants exhibit different stability and range.
The qualitative distinctions manifest new allophonic realizations of the vowel phonemes. Bauer (1985) comes to the conclusion that a definite trend towards centralization is observed in the quality of English vowels at present.
monothongs of RP, diphthongs of RP.
1. According to the stability of articulation.
a). It is generally acknowledged that two historically long vowels [i], [u:] have become diphthongized and are often called diphthongoids; the organs of speech slightly change their articulation by the very end of pronunciation, becoming more fronted. Bauer (1985: p. p. 61-80) tries to draw a parallel with the Great Vowel Shift which took place in Middle English, where diphthongization was just one part of a complete change of pattern in the long vowels. He claims that there is some resemblance to this process today and other phonemes may move up to fill the places left vacant.
b). There is a tendency for some of the existing diphthongs to be smoothed out, to become shorter, so that they are more like pure vowels.
c) This is very often the case with [ei], particularly in the word final position, where the glide is very slight: [ta'dei], [sei], [mei].
d) Diphthongs [ai], [au] are subject to a smoothing process where they are followed by the neutral sound [?]: Conservative RP: [tau?], [fai?], General RP: [ta?], [fa?], Advanced RP: [tá:], [fá:]
e) Also diphthongs [o?], [u?] tend to be leveled to [?:]. Thus the pronunciation of the words pore, poor is varied like this: older speakers: [p??], [pu?], middle-aged speakers: [po:], [pu?], younger speakers: [p??:], [p?:].
It should be mentioned, however, that this tendency does not concern the diphthong [i?] when it is final. The prominence and length shift to the glide, this final quality often being near to [a]; dear [di?] - [dia]
2. According to the horizontal and vertical movements of the tongue. Very striking changes occur in the vowel quality affected by the horizontal movements of the tongue. In fact the general tendency is marked by the centering of both front and back vowels:
a) the nuclei of [ai], [au] tend to be more back, especially in the male variant of the pronunciation;
b) the nucleus of the diphthong [u] varies considerably, ranging from [ou] among conservative speakers to [u] among advanced ones: Conservative RP: [sou], [foun], [nout]; Advanced RP: [su], [fun], [nut].
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