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.
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. 04).
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. 9) 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).