The RP accent
Origins and definitions of RP
It is a remarkable fact that the English have cultivated a concept of a form of pronunciation which has been considered more correct, desirable, acceptable or elegant than others. It has always been a matter of preoccupation for a small section of society. Henry Sweet wrote that “Standard English… is now a class dialect more than a local dialect: it is the language of the educated all over Great Britain… The best speakers of Standard English are those whose pronunciation, and language generally, least betray their locality…”1
Daniel Jones retained in his definition of RP a specific social delimination which refers to the “everyday speech in the families of Southern English persons whose menfolk have been educated at the great public boarding-schools”.2 By Jones’s time, it was widely agreed that, although the base of RP was a southern type of pronunciation, this form of speech was generally considered to be “accentless” and to be used by the upper class throughout Britain.
Since the Second World War, RP is no longer a prerequisite for diplomats or for social success; and even the BBC passed through a period of great permissiveness in its selection of newsreaders for its internal services.
However, there still exists a widely held notion of a standard pronunciation and this standard is identified as having the features of RP.
A survey of the comments of grammarians and lexicographers on the pronunciation of English over the last four centuries reveals, in the great majority of cases, a single phonological system which has been evolving in time. There is therefore a phonological tradition of a standard, of which the latest stages of development of during the 20th century can be observed. This evolving system with its varying phonetic characteristics is the most reliable basis for the definition of present-day RP.
There is a new classification of RP types in the 6th edition of A.C. Gimson’s “Introduction to the Pronunciation of English” revised by Alan Cruttenden in 2001: general RP, refined RP, regional RP.
The authors have combined two basic principles of accent classification here: the social and the regional, showing that there are neither categorical boundaries between the three types of RP, nor between RP and regional pronunciations.
Refined RP is defined as an upper-class accent mainly associated with upper-class families.
The term Regional RP reflects regional variation and varies according to which region is involved. It is used to describe the type of speech which is basically RP except for the presence of a few regional characteristics which may go unnoticed even by other speakers of RP.
There is one regional type, RP modified towards Cockney, which has provoked much discussion in the press under the name of Estuary English. The name Estuary English was first used because such a pronunciation was thought to have spread from London along the Thames estuary and not only into rural areas all around London but also into urban areas remote from London. Estuary is said to be being adopted by those wishing to avoid the stigma of RP as “posh” and by upwardly mobile speakers of local dialect. It is often characterized by younger speakers as having “street credibility” or “streetcred”, i.e. as being fashionable.
The phonetic features of Estuary English include: the replacement of dark [l] as in field [fiʊd]; the glottalization of /t/ preconsonantly and before a pause, as in not that [nɒɁ ðæt], eat ice [iɁ aɪs]; the use of Cockney-type realization of diphthongs /eɪ, aɪ/ , as in late [laɪt], light [loɪt]; Cockney-type vowel allophones before /l/, e.g. cold [kouud]; /tj/ and /dj/ pronounced as affricates in tune [ʧu:n], during ['ʤu:rɪŋ]; Elision of /j/ after /n/, as in new [nu:].
Some other characteristics claimed for Estuary English are not based on Cockney but may be changes more generally in progress in General RP.
One intonational characteristic of Cockney that has spread into Estuary English, and even more widely, is the use of the falling tone in tag questions where the listener (who is supposed to agree) clearly has no relevant knowledge: The postman knocking on the door, `didn’t he?
Another intonational feature is a spreading usage of preposition and auxiliary verb accenting, e.g. I didn’t do anything because there was nothing TO do. You couldn’t have seen me in London because I haven’t BEEN in London.
Everywhere else outside English the situation is different as far as RP is concerned because in Scotland and Ireland RP is generally seen as a foreign (English) accent.
1 Sweet, H. The sounds of English. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908
2 Wyld, H. A history of modern colloquial English. Oxford: Blackwell, 1922
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Статья будет полезна для тех, кто уделяет особое внимание фонетике английского языка. В статье речь идёт о британском нормативном произношении (англ. RP) и его классификациях, а также о диалекте английского языка, на котором говорят в Юго-Восточной Англии - эстуарном английском (англ. Estuary English). Название «эстуарный» происходит из английского названия устья Темзы у Северного моря (англ. Thames Estuary). Эстуарный английский можно услышать в Лондоне, Кенте, на севере графства Суррей и на юге графства Эссекс. У эстуарного английского много общего с диалектом кокни, и среди лингвистов ведутся споры о границах одного и другого.