RP/BBC English or British English as a standard language
Chapter 1. RP/BBC English as the
British national standard of pronunciation
1.1 Socio-historical survey of
1.2 Phonological and phonetic
dimensions of RP/BBC English
Chapter 2. British English as a
standard of pronunciation in Great Britain
2.2 Dialects and accents
Chapter 3. Cockney as an example of
a broad accent of British English
Chapter 4. Black British as one of
the most widespread dialects in Great Britain
Chapter 5. Differences in
pronunciation between British and American English
Chapter 6. Estuary English as one
of the dialects of British English
Chapter 7. Chief differences
between RP and regional accents of British English
the sounds in all languages are always in process of change. During those times
when people from different regions communicated with each other not often, it
was natural that the speech of all communities did not develop in one direction
or at the same rate. Moreover, different parts of the country were subjected to
different extreme influences, which were the reasons for different phonetic
structures of the language. Especially, for the last five centuries, in Great
Britain has existed the notion that one kind of pronunciation of English is
preferable socially to others. One regional accent began to acquire social
prestige. For reasons of politics, commerce and the presence of the Court, it
was the pronunciation of the south-east of England and more particularly to
that of the London Region, that this prestige was attached. This pronunciation
is called Received Pronunciation which is regarded as a model for correct
pronunciation, particularly for educated formal speech.
is to be noticed that the role of RP in the English-speaking world has changed
very considerably in the last century. Over 300 million people now speak
English as their first language and of this number native RP speakers form only
a minute proportion. George Bernard Shaw said that the United States and United
Kingdom are “two countries divided by a common language” .
scientists, such as D. Jones, J.C. Wells, J. Gimson, S. Johnson, S. Jeffries,
J. Maidment, D considered RP/BBC to be an important issue to pay their
attention to. The
object of this research is RP as a norm of pronunciation of British English and
its accents and dialects. The
subject of the research is devoted to the peculiarities of the development of
RP from D. Jones to Wells.
practical value of the research consists in providing different approaches to
the problem of RP in Modern English. The
material which was used to supply this research with examples is the following:
George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (film “My fair lady”), Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem
"Sonny's Lettah" and the BBC news.
This turn paper consists of the introductory, seven
chapters, conclusion, summary and the list of used literature.
RP/BBC English as the British national
standard of pronunciation
British English as a standard of
pronunciation in Great Britain
Cockney as an example of a broad accent
of British English
Black British as one of the most
widespread dialects in Great Britain
Differences in pronunciation between
British and American English
Estuary English as one of the dialects
of British English
Chief differences between RP and
regional accents of British English
Chapter 1. RP/BBC English as the British national standard of
1.1 Socio-historical survey of RP/BBC English
Gimson claims that the historical origins of RP go back to the
16th-17th century recommendations that the
speech model should be that provided by the educated pronunciation of the court
and the capital [Gimson 1980]. Thus, the roots of RP in London, more
particularly the pronunciation of the London region and the Home countries
lying around London within 60 miles: Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Surrey. By the 18th century
a prestigious pronunciation model was characterized as the speech " received
by the polite circles of society " [Gimson: 1977].
By the 19th century London English had increasingly acquired
social prestige losing be of its local characteristics. It was finally fixed as
the pronunciation of the ruling class. According to Leither, in the mid 19th
century there was an increase in education, in particular, there occurred the
rise of public schools (since 1864 Public School Act). These schools became important
agencies in the transmission of Southern English as the form with highest
prestige. Since that time London English or Southern English was termed
as Classroom English, Public School English or Educated English [Liether: 1982]. That was a forceful
normalization movement towards the establishment of Educated Southern English
as the standard accent. The major reasons for this were:
The need for a clearly
defined and recognized norm for public
and other purposes;
The desire to provide
adequate descriptions for teaching English both as the mother tongue and a
Professor Daniel Jones described this variety as a hoped-for
standard pronunciation in the first editions of his books "The
Pronunciation of English"  and "Outline of English
Phonetics" . By 1930, however, any intention of setting up a
standard of Spoken English was disclaimed by many phoneticians. The term
"Standard Pronunciation" was replaced by "Received
Pronunciation", which had been introduced for Southern Educated English by
phonetician Ida Ward who defined it as pronunciation which " had lost all
easily noticeable local differences" [Leitner: 1982]. According to Wells the
British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) adopted RP for the use by its news-readers since 1920s.
The country's population, for more than half a century, had been exposed
through broadcasting to RP. Until the early 70s of the last century it was the
only accent demanded in the BBC's announcers. For that reason RP often became
identified in the public mind with BBC English. Only over the last 30 years, both
the BBC and other British national radio and TV channels have been increasingly
tolerant of the accent of their broadcasters. [Wells: 1982].
1.2 Phonological and phonetic dimensions of RP/BBC English
Now we will outline main segmental features of RP/BBC English.
As for its phoneme inventory, Gimson states, that this accent has 20
vowels and 24 consonants. The system of vowels embraces 12 pure vowels or
monophthongs: i:, i, æ, Λ, a:, o, o:, υ, u:, з:, ә and 8 diphthongs: ei, ai, oi, әυ, aυ, iә, eә, υә.
The system of RP consonants consists of the following two wide categories of
1) those typically associated with a noise component: p, b,
t, d, k, g, f, v, θ, ð, s, z, ʃ,з, h, tʃ,dз;
2) those without a noise component which may share many
phonetic characteristics with vowels - 7 sonorants : m, n, ŋ, 1, r, j, w.
Measurements of text frequency of occurrence of RP vowels and
consonants display the following picture: [Gimson: 2001]
According to the phonotactic specification of /r/ occurrence,
RP is a non-rhotic or r-less accent, i.e. /r/ does not occur
after a vowel or at the end of the words. It may be claimed that /r/ in
RP has a limited distribution, being restricted in its occurrence
to pre-vocalic positions.
Prof. J C. Wells in his article "Cockneyfication of RP"
discusses several of recent and current sound changes in RP. He considers in
1) the decline of weak
A lot of bright examples of glottalling we can find in George
Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” ( film “My Fair Lady”):
e.g. So cheer up, Captain; and buy a flower off a poor girl.
/ e.g. What’s that? That ain’t proper writing. /e.g.
Buy a flower, kind gentleman. /
4) intrusive /r/,
5) yod coalescence,
e.g. Then what did you take my words for? / e.g. Now you
know, don’t you? I’m come to have lessons, I am. / e.g. Would you mind
if I take a seat? /
6) assorted lexical
V. Parashchuk claims that there is a tendency towards the
so-called smoothing (tightening, reduction) of the sequences / aiə /, /aυә/ ("thripthongs"), the medial element
of which may be elided. They are sometimes reduced to a long open vowel, e.g. power
/pa:/, tower /ta:/, fire /fa:/, our /a:/. Though the
full forms have been retained in the latest edition of the LPD as the main
variants, their reduced counterparts are very common in casual RP: /aυә
- aә - a:/.
There is a tendency, though not a very consistent one, to make the
diphthong /υә/ a positional allophone of /o:/ . It is increasingly
replaced by /o:/ , e.g. the most common form of sure has /o:/ with a
similar drift being true for poor, mour, tour and their derivatives.
Rare words, such as gourd, dour tend to retain /υә/without a
common /o:/ variant. Words in which /υә/ is preceded by a consonant
plus /j/ are relatively resistant to this shift, e.g. pure,
curious, fury, furious.
There is a yod-dropping tendency after /s/ in the
words like suit, super and their derivatives, e.g. suitcase,
suitable, supreme, superior, supermarket - these have the dominant form
without /j/. In words, where /j/ occurs after the consonants
other than /s/, it still remains the dominant form in RP, e.g. enthusiasm,
news, student. [Parashchuk: 2005]
Chapter 2. British English as a
standard of pronunciation in Great Britain
English or UK English or English English (BrE, BE), is the broad term used to
distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from
forms used elsewhere. There is confusion whether the term refers to English as
spoken in the British Isles or to English as spoken in Great Britain, though in
the case of Ireland, there are further distinctions peculiar to Hiberno-English.
There are slight regional variations in formal
written English in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful
degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this
could be described as "British English". According to Tom McArthur in
the Oxford Guide to World English (p. 45), "for many people...especially
in England [the phrase British English] is tautologous," and it shares
"all the ambiguities and tensions in the word British, and as a result can
be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a
range of blurring and ambiguity" .
English is a West Germanic language that originated
from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to England by Germanic settlers from
various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands.
Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied
origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, Late
West Saxon, eventually came to dominate. Thus, English developed into a
"borrowing" language of great flexibility and with a huge vocabulary.
Professor Sally Johnson admits that dialects and
accents vary between the four countries of the United Kingdom, and also within
the countries themselves. There are also differences in the English spoken by
different socio-economic groups in any particular region.
The major divisions are normally classified as
English English (or English as spoken in England, which comprises Southern
English dialects, Midlands English dialects and Northern English dialects),
Welsh English, Scottish English and the closely related dialects of the Scots
language. The various British dialects also differ in the words that they have
borrowed from other languages. The Scottish and Northern English dialects
include many words originally borrowed from Old Norse and a few borrowed from
Gaelic. There is no singular British accent, just as there is no singular
American accent; in fact, the United Kingdom is home to a wide variety of
regional accents and dialects, to a greater extent than the United States.
Stuart Jeffries claims that the form of English most
commonly associated with educated speakers in the southern counties of England
is called the "Received Standard", and its accent is called Received
Pronunciation (RP). It derives from a mixture of the Midland and Southern
dialects which were spoken in London during the Middle Ages and is frequently
used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners. Although educated
speakers from elsewhere within the UK may not speak with an RP accent it is now
a class-dialect more than a local dialect. The best speakers of Standard English
are those whose pronunciation, and language generally, least betray their
locality. It may also be referred to as "the Queen's (or King's)
English", "Public School English", or "BBC English" as
this was originally the form of English used on radio and television, although
a wider variety of accents can be heard these days. Only approximately two
percent of Britons speak RP, and it has evolved quite markedly over the last 40
years . Even
in the South East there are significantly different accents; the London Cockney
accent is strikingly different from RP and its rhyming slang can be difficult
for outsiders to understand. Since
the mass immigration to Northamptonshire in the 1940s and its close accent
borders, it has become a source of various accent developments. There,
nowadays, one finds an accent known locally as the Kettering accent, which is a
mixture of many different local accents, including East Midlands, East Anglian,
Scottish, and Cockney. In addition, in the town of Corby, five miles (8 km) north,
one can find Corbyite, which unlike the Kettering accent, is largely based on
Scottish. This is due to the influx of Scottish steelworkers.
As with English around the world, the English
language as used in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is governed
by convention rather than formal code: there is no equivalent body to the
Académie française or the Real Academia Española, and the
authoritative dictionaries (for example, Oxford English Dictionary, Longman
Dictionary of Contemporary English, Chambers Dictionary, Collins Dictionary)
record usage rather than prescribe it. In addition, vocabulary and usage change
with time; words are freely borrowed from other languages and other strains of
English, and neologisms are frequent .
Chapter 3. Cockney as an example of a broad accent of British English
According to V. Parashchuk, an example of an accent representing
much-localized, non-standard English is Cockney, the broadest London
working-class speech. Historically, Cockney has been the major influence in the
phonetic development of RP, and many of its current changes can be related to
Cockney pronunciation. Let us summarize the most essential information on the
origin of Cockney, the revealing features of its grammar, vocabulary, and major
phonetic distinctions. Cockney is distinguished by its special usage of vocabulary -
rhyming slang. Many of its expressions have passed into common language. It
developed as a way of obscuring the meaning of sentences to those who did not
understand the slang. It remains a matter of speculation whether this was a
linguistic accident, or whether it was developed intentionally to assist
criminals or to maintain a particular community [#"#">master.com/encyclopedia/cockneyrhyming slang]. Rhyming slang works by replacing the word to be obscured
with the first word of a phrase that rhymes with that word. For instance, "face"
would be replaced by "boat", because face rhymes
with "boat race" [http//www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/cockneyrhymingslang].
Similarly "feel" becomes "plates"
("plates of meat"), and "money" is "bread"
(a very common usage, from "bread and honey"). Sometimes
the full phrase is used, for example "Currant Bun" to mean The
Sun (often referring to the British tabloid newspaper of that name). Some
substitutions have become relatively widespread in England, for example,
to "have a butcher's" means to have a look, from
the rhyming slang "butcher's hook".[Parashchuk: 2005]
J. Gimson states that there
are no differences in the inventory of vowel and consonant phonemes between RP
and Cockney [Gimson: 2001:87] and there are relatively few differences of
phoneme lexical distribution. There are, however, a large number of differences
in realization of phonemes. Most striking realizational differences can be
summarized as follows [Gimson: 2001:86-87].
1. H dropping. /h/ is
not pronounced in initial positions in words which have this phoneme in RP,
e.g. have, hat, horse = /av/, /æt/, /ho:s/. /h/ is used, however,
in initial positions in words which in RP begin with a vowel. Thus the words air,
atmosphere, honesty are pronounced in Cockney as /heә/,
The following examples are taken from film “My fair lady”
e.g. You ain’t heard what I come for yet. /e.g. I’m come
to have lessons, I am. /e.g. I won’t stay here if I don’t like. / e.g.
He ain’t above giving lessons, not him: I heard him say so. /
2. TH fronting/stopping. The contrast between /θ/ and /f/
is completely lost and between /
ð / and /v/ is occasionally
lost, e.g. think, father - /fink/, /׳fa: vә /. When / ð/ occurs initially, it is
either dropped or replaced by /d/, e.g. this and that = /'disn'dæt/.
e.g. I ain’t got no mother.(FL) /
3. L vocalization. Dark [ł]
(i.e. in positions not immediately before vowels) becomes vocalic [υ],
e.g. milk, table = /miυk/, /teibυ/. When the preceding vowel
is /o:/, /l/ may disappear completely, e.g. called = /kho:d/.
There may be similar replacement of /p/. /k/ before a following
consonant, e.g. soapbox /'sæυ?boks/, technical /'te?ni?u/
e.g. What that you say? /
5. yod-coalescence. There
is coalescence of /t/, /d/ before /j/ into / tʃ /, and / dʒ/ , e.g. tube [tʃu:b], during [' dʒυәriŋ], but elision of /j/ following by/n/, e.g. news [nu:z].
e.g. I won’t let you wallop me!
Main distinctions in the realization of cockney vowels include
1. The short front vowels /e/, /æ/ tend to be closer than in
RP so much, that Cockney sat may sound as set and set like
sit to the speakers of other accents.
2. Among the long vowels, most noticeable is the diphthongization
of /i:/→/әi/, /u:/→/әu/, thus bead =/bәid/,
boot =/bәut/. When /o:/ is final, it is pronounced as /owә/,
sore, saw = /sowә/; when it is not final, its realization is
3. Diphthong shift. Cockney uses distinctive pronunciation of RP diphthongs:
/ei/ is realized as /ai/ e.g.
lady = /'laidi/;
/ai/ sounds as /oi/~/ai/, e.g. price= /prois/;
/әυ/ sounds as /æυ/ e.g. load /læυd/;
/aυ/ sounds as /a:/, e g loud /la:d/;
4. /i/ lengthening, /i/ in word final positions sound', as
/i:/.e .g. city /'siti:/
5. Weakening. RP diphthong /әυ/ in window, pillow is
weakened to schwa /ә/. You, to are pronounced as /jә/, /tә/,
especially finally, e.g. see you, try to [Gimson:2001].
Chapter 4. Black British as one
of the most widespread dialects in Great Britain
British is a term which has had different meanings and uses as a racial and
political label. Historically it has been used to refer to any non-white
British national. The term was first used at the end of the British Empire,
when several major colonies formally gained independence and thereby created a
new form of national identity. The term was at that time (1950s) used mainly to
describe those from the former colonies of Africa, and the Caribbean, i.e. the
New Commonwealth. In some circumstances the word "Black" still
signifies all ethnic minority populations .
Historically, the term has most commonly been used
to refer to those of New Commonwealth origin. For example, Southall Black
Sisters was established in 1979 "to meet the needs of black (Asian and
Afro-Caribbean) women". (Note that "Asian" in the British
context means from South Asia only.) "Black" was used in this
inclusive political sense to mean "not white British" - the main
groups in the 1970s were from the British West Indies and the Indian subcontinent,
but solidarity against racism extended the term to the Irish population of
Britain as well. Several organizations continue to use the term inclusively,
such as the Black Arts Alliance, who extend their use of the term to Latin
America and all refugees, and the National Black Police Association.
Verma claims that Black British was also an identity of Black people in Sierra
Leone (known as the Krio) who considered themselves British. They are generally
the descendants of black people who lived in England in the 18th century and
freed Black American slaves who fought for the Crown in the American
Revolutionary War (see also Black Loyalists). In 1787, hundreds of London's
Black poor (a category which included the East Indian) agreed to go to this
West African country on the condition that they would retain the status of
British subjects, to live in freedom under the protection of the British Crown
and be defended by the Royal Navy .
this era there was a rise of black settlements in London. Britain was involved
with the tri-continental slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Black slaves were attendants to sea captains and ex-colonial officials as well
as traders, plantation owners and military personnel. Many of these people were
forced into beggary due to the lack of jobs and racial discrimination.
The involvement of merchants from the British Isles
in the transatlantic slave trade was the most important factor in the
development of the Black British community. These communities flourished in
port cities strongly involved in the slave trade, such as Liverpool (from 1730)
and Bristol Around the 1750s London became the home of many of Blacks, Jews,
Irish, Germans, and Huguenots. The late 19th century effectively ended the first
period of large scale black immigration to London and Britain. This decline in
immigration gave way to the gradual incorporation of blacks and their
descendents into this predominantly white society.
It was in the period after the Second World War,
however, that the largest influx of Black people occurred, mostly from the
British West Indies. This migration event is often labeled
"Windrush", a reference to the Empire Windrush, the ship that carried
the first major group of Caribbean migrants to the United Kingdom in 1948.
"Caribbean" is itself not one ethnic or political identity; for
example, some of this wave of immigrants were Indo-Caribbean. The most widely
used term then used was "West Indian" (or sometimes "coloured").
Today the black population of London is 1,001,000 or 13% of the population of
London. 5% of Londoners are Caribbean, 7% of Londoners are African and a
further 1% are from other black backgrounds including American and Latin
American. There are also 113,800 people who are mixed black and white .
Linton Kwesi Johnson is probably the best known poet
in Britain who is currently using Creole ( Black English) . The poem
"Sonny's Lettah", appeared in print in his anthology "Inglan' is
a Bitch" (1980) and was recorded on his album Forces of Victory. I have
read through "Sonny's Lettah" while listening to the tape and marked
differences between Standard English and the English used in the poem. Here is
the snatch of this song:
hope that when these few lines reach you
may find you in the best of health
Maa I really don' know how to tell yu dis
, I did meck a solemn promise
teck care a likkle Jim and try
best fi look out fi 'im
Maa a really did try mi best
none de less
sorry fi tell yu sey
likkle Jim get aress'
was de middle a de rush 'our
everybody jus' a hustle an a bustle
go 'ome fi dem evenin' shower…”
have noticed that where odd or unusual spelling has been used, this reflected a
difference in pronunciation.
the following examples are:
BrEn these /ði:z/ corresponds
to Black BrEn deze /dis/.
BrEn best /best/ corresponds
to Black BrEn bes' /bes/.
BrEn health /hælθ/
corresponds to Black BrEn helt' /helt/.
BrEn they /ðei/ corresponds
to Black BrEn dem /dem/.
the level of sounds, Creole has some characteristics which are associated with
regional and working-class varieties of English, and some others which are
found only in Caribbean Creole. Some of the most important differences:
The vowel of Black BrEn in the word cup
is like the vowel of BrEN cop/kΛp/
The vowel of Black BrEn in the word all
is like the vowel of BrEn are /a:l/
The vowels of Rlack BrEn in the words day
and home are diphthongs /dai/ and /hoυm/ unlike BrEn /dei/ and
The first consonant of thump in
Black BrEn is pronounced /tΛmp/
unlike BrEn /θΛmp/
5. Differences in pronunciation between British and American English
to Edward Finegan, written forms of American and British English as found in
newspapers and textbooks vary little in their essential features, with only
occasional noticeable differences in comparable media (comparing American
newspapers to British newspapers, for example). This kind of formal English,
particularly written English, is often called 'standard English'. An unofficial
standard for spoken American English has also developed, as a result of mass
media and geographic and social mobility. It is typically referred to as
'standard spoken American English' (SSAE) or 'General American English' (GenAm
or GAE), and broadly describes the English typically heard from network
newscasters, commonly referred to as non-regional diction, although local
newscasters tend toward more parochial forms of speech. Despite this unofficial
standard, regional variations of American English have not only persisted but
have actually intensified, according to linguist William Labov .
Claims that regional dialects in the United States typically reflect the
elements of the language of the main immigrant groups in any particular region
of the country, especially in terms of pronunciation and vernacular vocabulary.
Scholars have mapped at least four major regional variations of spoken American
English: Northern, Southern, Midland, and Western. The spoken forms of British
English vary considerably, reflecting a long history of dialect development
amid isolated populations. Dialects and accents vary not only between the
countries in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales,
but also within these individual countries.
British and American English are the reference norms
for English as spoken, written, and taught in the rest of the world. For
instance, the English-speaking members of the Commonwealth often closely follow
British English forms while many new American English forms quickly become
familiar outside of the United States. Although the dialects of English used in
the former British Empire are often, to various extents, based on British
English, most of the countries concerned have developed their own unique
dialects, particularly with respect to pronunciation, idioms, and vocabulary;
chief among them are Canadian English and Australian English, which rank third
and fourth in number of native speakers.
The English language was first introduced to the
Americas by British colonization, beginning in the early 17th century.
Similarly, the language spread to numerous other parts of the world as a result
of British trade and colonization elsewhere and the spread of the former
British Empire, which, by 1921, held sway over a population of about 470–570
million people: approximately a quarter of the world's population at that time.
Over the past 400 years, the form of the language
used in the Americas—especially in the United States—and that used in the
British Isles have diverged in many ways, leading to the dialects now commonly
referred to as American English and British English. Differences between the
two include pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary (lexis), spelling, punctuation,
idioms, formatting of dates and numbers, and so on, although the differences in
written and most spoken grammar structure tend to be much more minor than those
of other aspects of the language in terms of mutual intelligibility. A small
number of words have completely different meanings between the two dialects or
are even unknown or not used in one of the dialects. One particular
contribution towards formalizing these differences came from Noah Webster, who
wrote the first American dictionary (published 1828) with the intention of
showing that people in the United States spoke a different dialect from
divergence between American English and British English once caused George
Bernard Shaw to say that the United States and United Kingdom are "two
countries divided by a common language"; a similar comment is ascribed to
Winston Churchill. Likewise, Oscar Wilde wrote, "We have really everything
in common with America nowadays, except, of course, the language" (The
Canterville Ghost, 1888). Henry Sweet predicted in 1877 that within a century,
American English, Australian English and British English would be mutually
unintelligible. There are enough differences to cause occasional
misunderstandings or at times embarrassment – for example, some words that are
quite innocent in one dialect may be considered vulgar in the other.
can observe some differences in pronunciation in the past forms of such words
– BrE learned /lз:nd/,
spoilt – BrE spoiled,
spellt – BrE spelled,
dreamed – BrE dreamt,
smelt – BrE smelled, spill,
BrE, both irregular and regular forms are current, but for some words (such as
smelt and leapt) there is a strong tendency towards the irregular forms,
especially by users of Received Pronunciation. In AmE, the irregular forms are
never or rarely used (except for burnt and leapt).
t endings may be encountered frequently in older American texts .
are some examples of differences between British and American pronunciation:
RP orange / ‘ɒrɪndʒ/
- AmE /’ɑrəndʒ/.
RP origin /’ɒrədʒɪn/
- AmE /’ɑrədʒɪn/.
RP Florida /’flɒrɨdə/
- AmE /’flɑrədə/.
RP horrible /’hɒrɨbl/
- AmE /’hɑrəbl/.
RP quarrel /’kwɒrəl/
- AmE /’kwɑrəl/.
RP warren /’
- AmE /’ wɑrən/.
RP borrow /’ bɒrəʊ
- AmE /’ bɑroʊ/.
RP tomorrow /tə’mɒrəʊ/
- AmE /tə’mɑroʊ/.
RP sorry /’sɒri/
- AmE /’sɑri/.
- AmE /’sɑroʊ/.
Chapter 6. Estuary English as one
of the dialects of British English
Maidment says that one of the British accents (or dialects) that
has received a lot of publicity since mid 80s of the last century is Estuary
English (EE) named so after the banks of the river Thames and its estuary. Some
researches predict that EE is due to take over as the new standard of English,
others are more cautious in their assessment of its status. They claim that EE
is an accent which incorporates a mixture of south-eastern, RP and Cockney
features and which has been gaining popularity with educated speakers not only
in London and in the estuary of the Thames, but in other areas due to high
mobility of the population. This situation is clearly reflected in the title of
J. Maidment's paper "Estuary English: Hybrid or Hype?" [Maidment:
1994]. The term Estuary English was coined in 1984 by David Rosewarne,
who at that time was a post-graduate student of Applied Linguistics. He
defines EE as follows "Estuary English is a variety of modified
regional speech. It is a mixture of non-regional and local south-eastern
pronunciation and intonation. If one imagines a continuum Received
Pronunciation and London speech (Cockney) at either end, EE speak are to be
found grouped in the middle ground'' [Rosewarne: 1984]. Here we will summarize major
phonetic characteristics of EE based on the findings of the above
mentioned scholars. According to J.C. Wells, many of the features that
distinguish EE from RP are features it shares with Cockney. Unlike
Cockney, EE is associated with standard grammar and usage. But EE agrees with Cockney, and differs from RP, in
having (perhaps variably):
1) happY-tensing- tense
vowel ‘i’ at the end of happy, coffee, valley etc.
e.g. As the climate change summit starts that position of countries
like India, Brazil, Russia and, of course, China will be crucial (BBC news).
3) L vocalization -
pronouncing the ‘1’ sound in preconsonantal and final positions almost like/w/,
e.g. milk, bottle, etc.;
4) Yod coalescence in
stressed syllables, e.g. Tuesday, tune etc. that makes the first part of
Tues- sound identical to choose or duke, reduce etc.
making the second part of reduce identical to juice.
5) diphthong shift: the
diphthongal vowels of face, price, goat in EE are those that
would be used by Cockney speakers [Wells: 1997].
EE differs from Cockney in that it lacks:
1) H dropping/omitting (in content words), so that Cockney hand
on heart becomes 'and on 'eart.
2) TH fronting, using
labio-dental fricatives /f /and /f/ instead of /θ/, /
ð/. This turns I think into /ai fiŋk/, and mother into
e.g. Nadia’s mother hasn’t seen her daughter since 2007(BBC
3) T glottalling within a
word before a vowel, e.g. water, mattress, twenty. Cockney speakers use
? for /t/ in all environments where it is not syllable initial. Also sometimes
they extend glottal replacement to affect /p/ and /k/ as well as /t/.
J. C. Wells claims that " ...EE is a new name but not a new
phenomenon, being the continuation of a trend that has been going on for
five hundred years or more – the tendency for features of popular London speech
to spread out geographically (to other parts of the country) and socially (to higher
classes). The erosion of the English class system and the greater social
mobility in Britain today means that this trend is more noticeable today than
was once the case ..." [Wells: 1997].
Chapter 7. Chief differences between RP and Regional accents of
V. Parashchuk summarizes the chief differences between regional
accents of British English (BrE) as distinct from RP:
Within the vocalic systems:
1. No /Λ/ - /υ/ contrast. Typically /Λ/ does not occur in the accents of the north e.g. but =/bΛt/ (South), and /bυt/(North); blood=/blΛd/ (South) and /blυd/
(North); one =/wΛn/ (South) and /won/(North).
2. Different distribution of /æ/ and /a:/: before the
voiceless fricatives/f/, /θ/, /s/ and certain consonant clusters
containing initial /n/ or /m/, /æ/ is pronounced in the North instead of /a:/
in the South.
3. /i/ - tensing is one of the salient north-south
differentiating features in England. Word final /i/ like in words city
/’siti/, money /'mΛni/ is typical of the
northern accents, while in the South they have /i:/ in similar positions. In RP
happY vowel /i/ is used in such cases.
4. Vowel length contrast is absent in Scottish English and
Northern Ireland [Parashchuk: 2005].
Within the consonantal systems:
1. Rhoticism, i.e. retaining post-vocalic /r/, is spread in
Scotland, Ireland, and South-west in words like bar, farm etc. which
have orthographic 'r'. Non-rhoticism, i.e. absens of post-vocalic /r/, is
typical of RP and Welsh English. Thus, some British English accents are
“rhotic” or “r-ful” and others are non-rhotic or 'r-less'.
2. /t/ glottaling .In most regional accents the glottal stop is
widely used, especially in the north-east of England, East Anglia and Northern
Ireland. It may also be pronounced simultaneously with the voiceless /p/, /t/, /k/
most strikingly between the vowels, e.g. pity =/‘pit?i:/ .
3. /j/ (Yod) dropping: in most accents/ j/ is dropped after /t/ or
e.g. student =
/'stu:dnt/, suit=/su:t/, in the North it has been lost after /θ/,
e.g. enthusiasm/әn'θu:ziәzm/; In eastern England
/j/ is lost after every consonant, in London – after /n/, /t/, /d/, e.g.
news = /nu:z/, tune =/tu:n/.
4. Many non-RP speakers use /n/ in the suffix -ing instead
of /ŋ/: speaking/'spi:kin/. In areas of western central England
including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool they pronounce /ng/: singer /‘singә/,
wing /wing/ [Parashchuk: 2005].
to Leither, in the 18th century there was a forceful normalization
movement towards the establishment of Educated English. In teaching as well as
in politics and commerce, it was obligatory to have an adequate description for
English [Leither: 1982].
lot of scientists, such as Professor D. Jones, J.C. Wells, J.Gimson, S.
Johnson, S. Jefrries, D. Rosewarne and others considered this problem to be
worthy to discuss. Having prepared this term paper we can make following
Professor Sally Johnson divides English
English into Southern English dialect, Midlands English dialect and Northern English
There existed different approaches to
the problem of RP in Middle English and exists in Modern English. As the result
of it RP/BBC English has become the British national standard of pronunciation
Professor J.C. Wells in his research
discussed sound changes in RP. They are:
The decline of weak /l/;
Intrusive /r/ ;
Assorted lexical changes [Wells: 1982].
Sound changes given above can be met in
different accents and dialects in British English, Estuary English and Black
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Coggle, Paul. Do you speak Estuary? –
London: Bloomsbury, 1993.
Leitner G. The Consolidation of “Educated
Southern English” as a Model in the Early 20th Century // IRAL.
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or Hype? //Paper Presented at the 4th New Zealand Conference on
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