I was lucky to have been to the UK for several times. Each time I had
difficulties in understanding English. The thing is I lived in families
social level and different areas of the UK. It made me find all the
dialects and accents of the state. While studying the problem I came
abbreviation RP, got interested in Received Pronunciation and would like
to share this
information with my colleagues
People belong to different social groups and they perform different
social roles. A
person might be identified as " a woman”, "a student”, "a husband”, "a
citizen” or in many other ways. We acquire identities as we participate
structures. Any of these identities can influence the kind of language
we use. It is the
language (much more than clothing, furniture or other things) that is
the main aspect of
our social identity. The question "Where are you from, in the
turns into a somewhat different question; "What are you , in the eyes of
English-speaking society to which you belong?”
Age, sex, social level are closely connected with the way we speak.
When we adopt a
social role we choose appropriate linguistic forms; sounds,
constгuctions and vocabulary.
They say all the countries display the division of people into
different groups. May be
some of them have more clearly-defined class boundaries and others have
less. Britain is
usually said to be linguistically much more class-conscious than any
other country. The UK
has identified features of class dialects.
Dr. Honey, socio-linguist uses the word "class” when he talks about
accent. In his
book "Does Accent Matter?” he describes research in which people are
played tapes of
the same messages being read in various ways, then asked to award
attributes to the voices
they have heard.
The stereotypes are consistently confirmed: people state competence,
even good looks to voices which speak in " Received Pronunciation”.
Speakers of RP are
thought likely to be lawyers and bank managers.
Regional accents persistently fall into a hierarchy with Yorkshire
,West Country and
Geordie (Newcastle) near the top .Lodged at the bottom there are the
five accents at the
working-class industrial cities – Cockney ( London), Liverpool,
Birmingham, Glasgow and
Belfast. People still imagine the owners of these accents to be manual
television they are the accents of comics and villains.
In England one accent has traditionally stood out above all others
social standing and good education. This " prestige” accent is known as
Pronunciation” or RP. It is associated with the south-east, where most
or work, but it can be found anywhere in the country.
Accents usually tell us where a person is from; RP tells us only
about a person’s
social or educational background.
The British phonetician Daniel Jones was the first to arrange the
properties of RP into
a system. ”DJ” as he was known within the profession, originally studied
at Cambridge, and trained as a lawyer, but never practised. He became
language and by the 1920s DJ was being recognized as the British
authority on phonetics.
He explains in "An Outline of English Phonetic”:” …the type described in
is certainly a useful one. It is … generally used by those who have been
”preparatory” boarding schools and the "Public schools”…The term
Pronunciation” ... is often used to designate this type of
pronunciation. This term is
adopted here for want of a better”
The early form of RP was known over 400 years ago as the accent of
the court and the
upper classes. The English courtier George Puttenham (1589) thought that
the English of
northern men, whether they be noblemen or gentlemen … is not so courtly
as our Southern
English is. ”Most people who wanted to advance socially moved to London
and tried to
adopt the accent they found there. They say there were some exceptions,
for example Walter
Raleigh who had Devonshire accent.
Eventually RP became to symbolize a person’s high position in
society. During the 19th
century, it was the accent of the public schools , such as Eton and
Harrow. RP appeared to
be the main sign of a good education. It spread rapidly throughout the
Civil Service of
the British Empire and the armed forces. RP became ‘the voice” of
authority and power.
In the 1920s radio broadcasting began. RP was a regionally " neutral”
was thought to be more widely understood than any regional accent.
That’s why RP was
adopted by the BBC. The notion of a "BBC pronunciation "grew” during
World War II.
RP was linked in many minds with the voice of freedom.
The most famous debate on the English language and social class took
place in the
1950s. It happened after the publication of an article on the subject by
Alan Ross. The article distinguished "U” ( upper –class) usage from
usage taking into account vocabulary, pronunciation and written
language. The article
provoked an enormous public reaction. In 1956 Nancy Mitford edited a
satirical essays on the subject called "Noblesse Oblige”. Here is
paraphrase of some Ross’s examples:
"Cycle” is non-U against U bike
"Dinner”: U-speakers eat luncheon in the middle of the day and dinner
evening. Non-U speakers ( also U-children and U-dogs) have their dinner
in the middle of
"Greens” is non-U for U vegetables.
"Home”: non-U – " they l have a lovely home”
U –"they’ve a very nice house”
"Ill” : " I was ill on the boat” is non-U against U sick.
"Mental””: non-U for U mad.
"Toilet paper”: non-U for U lavatory paper.
"Wealthy”: non-U for U rich
Nowadays they say there is the breakdown of divisions between social
classes. RP is no
longer the preserve of a social elite. It is described as an "educated”
accent. To be
more precise it’s necessary to say "accents” because there are several
The most widely used is the accent generally heard on the BBC. There
and trend-setting forms. The former is found in many older establishment
latter is usually associated with certain social and professional
Early BBC recordings show how much RP has altered over just a few
decades. It’s quite
clear that no accent is immune to change, not even "the best ". Some
that RP is no longer as widely used today as it was 50 years ago. It is
still the standard
accent t of the Royal Family, Parliament, the Church of England, the
High Courts, and
other national institutions. But only about 3% of the British population
speak RP. The
very posh form of RP traditionally spoken by the Royal Family is
downgraded. Most educated people have developed an accent which is a
mixture of RP and
various regional characteristics. Some linguists call it "modified RP”.
In some cases,
a former RP speaker has been influenced by regional norms; in other
cases a former
regional speaker has moved in the direction of RP .In this respect a
major trend is the
"Estuary English”(the "estuary” means the river Thames).The term
appeared in the
1980s to identify the way features of London regional speech seemed to
spreading throughout the counties adjoining the river ( especially Essex
and Kent ). Some
linguists consider it as a possible claimant to the phonetic throne.
Nevertheless RP retains considerable status. It is widely used abroad
because RP has
been the chief accent taught to foreigners who wish to learn a British
model. It is
considered to be surprising, as RP has several features which add to the
difficulty of a
Still there is the hope that the Royal Family and the British
continue to provide enough prestige to the accent to enable it to
Returning to Dr Honey one can say that he has no scruples about
telling people they
should get rid of their working class accents. He thinks they are a huge
progress towards equality.” We have to choose between the museum
approach, which keeps
these accents on in glass cases even though they are rotting the chances
of the people who
use them, or we recognize that the world would be a drearier but a
fairer place if we got
rid of them” Dr. Honey thinks much more attention should be paid to the
language-grammar and spelling-in schools. Pupils should be taught clear,
speech. By Dr. Honey’s disappointment, the new National Curriculum
requirement to teach children Received Pronunciation.
Brian Cox, who advised the Government on its development, sympathizes
ideas but says they are impracticable. Consequently, the curriculum
requires only that
children be taught "to speak standard English in an accent which is
comprehensible. Still in the UK there is the new interest in "talking
example’, at Lucie Clayton school in London people learn "voice and
along with corporate dress sense and business make-up. It gives people’s