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1/19 LELA 10082 Lecture 2 RP (Received pronunciation) See: J.C. Wells (1997) “Whatever happened to Received Pronunciation?”, II Jornadas de Estudios Ingleses,

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Presentation on theme: "1/19 LELA 10082 Lecture 2 RP (Received pronunciation) See: J.C. Wells (1997) “Whatever happened to Received Pronunciation?”, II Jornadas de Estudios Ingleses,"— Presentation transcript:

1 1/19 LELA 10082 Lecture 2 RP (Received pronunciation) See: J.C. Wells (1997) “Whatever happened to Received Pronunciation?”, II Jornadas de Estudios Ingleses, Universidad de Jaén, Spain, p.19-28. Available at

2 2/19 Received pronunciation “Standard” (British) English pronunciation It’s an accent rather than a dialect “received” in the old-fashioned meaning of “accepted” or “approved” (cf “received wisdom”) Term probably coined by Daniel Jones (1917)

3 3/19 Received pronunciation Regarded as most prestigious accent, identified with education and “breeding” Also known (misleadingly) as “Queen’s English”, or Oxbridge English, or (least appropriately nowadays) BBC English In fact, one can identify a range of variants of RP

4 4/19 Received pronunciation Unlike prestige accents in many other countries it is not the accent of any particular region … … though historically it originates in the speech of the upper classes in London and the home counties It obviously has more features in common with southern accents … … but it is clearly not the local accent of London, nor Oxford or Cambridge

5 5/19 Prestigious accent? Generally the model for BrE pronunciation Foreign learners usually taught either AmE or RP (though both Edinburgh and Dublin have a big English-language learning tourist trade) Used to be necessary for many professions (notably, the BBC) – children had elocution lessons Associated with upper classes, hence aloofness and snobbery, and so has become less attractive (roughly since 1960s, perhaps in association with other social changes) Now estimated that only 3-5% of population of England speaks RP Still used as a model to describe variation of non-standard accents

6 6/19 How to define RP Sociolinguistically? –Who speaks RP? Members of a certain social class (Royal family, upper-middle classes...); broadcasters (not any more); educated people (but many people now have “educated regional accents”) Subjectively? –What is correct/preferred/easiest to understand/most neutral? Always a subjective question, and no longer very reliable; in fact RP is widely denigrated nowadays As an ideal, e.g. a model for teaching EFL

7 7/19 Variation within RP Like all languages/dialects/accents, RP has undergone (and is undergoing) changes We can identify variants (“conservative”, “standard”, “modern”) in relation to resistance to certain developments: Variation includes –Phoneme mergers –Phoneme/allophone realisation –Phoneme distribution –Other features

8 8/19 Phonemes Groups of speech sounds identified by speakers as “the same”, often reflected in writing system Phonetic realisation varies depending on context –Clear and dark L –Varieties of /t/ in top, stop, try, eighth, little, bitten, cat –Use of minimal pairs to identify phonemes –Also, requirement of phonetic similarity (e.g. /h/~/ N /)

9 9/19 Phoneme mergers Phoneme distinction lost, so words become homophones /w/ ~ /  / eg witch ~ which –/  / a phoneme in Scottish, Irish and American English –Arguably a sequence of /hw/ (not /wh/, note) –Regarded as a feature of “careful” speech –Distinction not made by many RP speakers /  / ~ /  / eg floor ~ flaw, four ~ for /  / ~ /  / eg poor ~ paw, sure, moor, cure, tourist

10 10/19 Phoneme/allophone realisation Phoneme remains, but its realisation changes –Allophone shift –Allophone falls out of use /o ʊ / → /ə ʊ / eg goat, road, don’t, know /  / → /a/ eg that bad man Loss of tapped /r/ (alveolar tap [ ɾ ]) as a usual realization of /r/ between vowels, as in very sorry; replaced by the ordinary approximant [ ɹ ]. Glottal stop for /t/ before consonant as in football, witness, network, quite good, Gatwick, and even word-finally before a vowel: take it off, quite easy.

11 11/19 Phoneme distribution Different phoneme is used in pronunciation of certain words –Can be systematic, or apply apparently arbitrarily /  / → /  / in cloth, off, lost [before voiceless fricative] / ɪ / →/ə/ eg possible, private, carelessness, and other words ending in -ible, -ate, -less, -ness, -ity, -ily /t+j, d+j/ → / tS, dZ / nature, graduate, perpetual, Tuesday, tune, dune / E / → / ɪ / →/i/ in -y ending, happy, city, …

12 12/19 Other effects Linking vs. intrusive r –fear of, idea of, put a comma in, saw it … Plosive epenthesis: insertion of /t/ between nasal and fricative: fence / fEnts /, emphasis / EmpfasIs /, answer / Ants  /, mince=mints Vocalisation of dark L /l/ → /  /: milk, shelf, tables, apple, middle, little –Is this a change in phoneme distribution or change in allophone realisation? (see later)

13 13/19 Lexical changes Individual changes in lexical pronunciation, not generalisable –nephew / nEvju / → / nEfju / –suit /sjut/ → /sut/ –deity / diItI / → / deItI / –zebra / zibr  / → / zEbr  / Collected by Wells (1990) for his Longman Pronunciation Dicitonary Comparison of preferences by respondents’ ages shows time-line of change born before … 1923 1962 nEfju 51% 92% sut 47% 92% deItI 40% 98% zEbr  65% 96%

14 14/19 How to describe? Note difficulty in describing changes (will also be seen when we look at regional accents) –Ordinary phonemic analysis (endocentric) –Comparison with something else (exocentric) Example: vocalisation of dark L –Odd to say [ U ] is allophone of /l/ as it is (elsewhere) a phoneme in its own right –Historical view, backed by spelling, suggests it’s “an L” –Prescriptivists talk (often disparagingly) in terms of “vocalised L” –But endocentric analysis would say it’s a / U /

15 15/19 Estuary English The new RP? Actually a hybrid of RP and SE English (London, Kent, Essex) accents Not associated with upper class, but with socially mobile young people, even working class, hence prestigious in modern society Expected to replace RP as “standard” Name coined by David Rosewarne in Times Higher Ed. Supp. 1984 Excellent website:

16 16/19 Features of Estuary English Features of advanced RP already seen: –Use of intrusive R. –T glottalisation –L vocalisation “Broad A” ([ A ]) in words such as bath, grass, laugh, etc. has only spread to rural areas of the south-east in the last 40 years. Dropping of /j/ phoneme after /t,d,n/ in tune, news, knew Dropping of /t/ in twenty, plenty etc. Diphthong shifts, e.g., / aI / → [ AI ], /a  / →[æ ʊ ], /e I / → [  ] Rising intonation on statements

17 17/19 Estuary English and Cockney Some features of Cockney appearing in EE too: –replacement of /θ, ð/ with /f, v/ (e.g. [ fINk ] for think [ wEv  ] for weather, free = three) –Pronunciation of -ing: RP / IN /, elsewhere / INg /, EE (and some conservative RP) / In /, and as / INk / in - thing –dropping /h/ in stressed words (e.g. [aus] for house) –Replacement of an /r/ with [  ] (eg Jonathan Ross) sufficiently widespread to be no longer seen as a speech defect!

18 18/19 Conclusion All accents change, even RP –Interesting that it is possible to track changes by listening to recordings –Researchers at Macquarie U (Sydney) compared the Queen’s Christmas speeches and found that even the Queen’s English is moving towards EE! –Also interesting to see how popular press talks about language change

19 19/19 Conclusion RP was once highly prestigious – if you had a regional accent you strove to lose it On the contrary, it is now a stigmatised accent This says more about social trends than about linguistics Numbers of speakers diminishing, so the accent may disappear Regional accents now more acceptable, but there are still strata –e.g. “Educated Northern” –Regional accents are associated with character traits, also subject to change In 60s, Scouse was witty, cheeky (now Geordie); Cockney indicated a spiv; Lancs/Yorks hard-working hard-nosed businessman Attitudes quite different beyond England (sic)

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