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Received Pronunciation (often abbreviated as RP) is the
accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to a particular syllable in a word, or a word in a phrase ** Pitch accen ...
traditionally regarded as the standard for
British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar and usage and is employed by a populatio ...
. For over a century there has been argument over such issues as the definition of RP, whether it is geographically neutral, how many speakers there are, whether sub-varieties exist, how appropriate a choice it is as a standard and how the accent has changed over time. RP is an accent, so the study of RP is concerned only with matters of pronunciation; other areas relevant to the study of language standards such as
vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), m ...
,
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...
and
style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable. It is a sub-cla ...
are not considered.


History

RP has most in common with the dialects of South East Midlands, namely London, Oxford and Cambridge. By the end of the 15th century, "Standard English" was established in the City of London, though it did not begin to resemble RP until the late 19th century. The introduction of the term ''Received Pronunciation'' is usually credited to the British phonetician
Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones
. In the first edition of the '' English Pronouncing Dictionary'' (1917) he named the accent "
Public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth Engli ...
School Pronunciation" but for the second edition in 1926 he wrote: "In what follows I call it Received Pronunciation, for want of a better term." However, the term had been used much earlier by P. S. Du Ponceau in 1818. A similar term, ''received standard,'' was coined by Henry C. K. Wyld in 1927. The early phonetician
Alexander John Ellis Alexander John Ellis, (14 June 1814 – 28 October 1890) was an English mathematician, philology, philologist and early phonetics, phonetician who also influenced the field of musicology. He changed his name from his father's name Sharpe to his ...
used both terms interchangeably, but with a much broader definition than Jones's, saying, "There is no such thing as a uniform educated pron. of English, and rp. and rs. is a variable quantity differing from individual to individual, although all its varieties are 'received', understood and mainly unnoticed". According to ''
Fowler's Modern English Usage ''A Dictionary of Modern English Usage'' (1926), by Henry Watson Fowler (1858–1933), is a style guide to British English usage, pronunciation, and writing. Covering topics such as English plural, plurals and literary technique, distinctions a ...
'' (1965), "the correct term is 'the Received Pronunciation'. The word 'received' conveys its original meaning of 'accepted' or 'approved', as in ' received wisdom'."


Alternative names

Some linguists have used the term "RP" while expressing reservations about its suitability. The Cambridge-published ''English Pronouncing Dictionary'' (aimed at those learning English as a foreign language) uses the phrase "
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of ...

BBC
Pronunciation" on the basis that the name "Received Pronunciation" is "archaic" and that
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BBC News
presenters no longer suggest high social class and privilege to their listeners. Other writers have also used the name "BBC Pronunciation". The term '' The Queen's/King's English'' has also been used by some writers, though the term is more appropriately used to cover grammar as well as pronunciation. The phonetician Jack Windsor Lewis frequently criticised the name "Received Pronunciation" in his blog: he has called it "invidious", a "ridiculously archaic, parochial and question-begging term" and noted that American scholars find the term "quite curious". He used the term "General British" (to parallel "
General American General American English or General American (abbreviated GA or GenAm) is the umbrella accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (p ...

General American
") in his 1970s publication of ''A Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of American and British English'' and in subsequent publications. The name "General British" is adopted in the latest revision of Gimson's ''Pronunciation of English''. Beverley Collins and Inger Mees use the term "Non-Regional Pronunciation" for what is often otherwise called RP, and reserve the term "Received Pronunciation" for the "upper-class speech of the twentieth century". Received Pronunciation has sometimes been called "Oxford English", as it used to be the accent of most members of the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
. The ''Handbook of the International Phonetic Association'' uses the name "Standard Southern British". Page 4 reads: In her book ''Kipling's English History'' (1974)
Marghanita Laski Marghanita Laski (24 October 1915 – 6 February 1988) was an English journalist A journalist is an individual trained to collect/gather information in form of text, audio or pictures, processes them to a news-worth form and disseminates i ...
refers to this accent as "gentry". "What the Producer and I tried to do was to have each poem spoken in the dialect that was, so far as we could tell, ringing in Kipling's ears when he wrote it. Sometimes the dialect is most appropriately, Gentry. More often, it isn't."


Sub-varieties

Faced with the difficulty of defining a single standard of RP, some researchers have tried to distinguish between sub-varieties: * proposed Conservative, General, and Advanced; "Conservative RP" referred to a traditional accent associated with older speakers with certain social backgrounds; General RP was considered neutral regarding age, occupation or lifestyle of the speaker; and Advanced RP referred to speech of a younger generation of speakers. Later editions (e.g., Gimson 2008) use the terms General, Refined and Regional RP. In the latest revision of Gimson's book, the terms preferred are General British (GB), Conspicuous GB and Regional GB. * refers to "mainstream RP" and " U-RP"; he suggests that Gimson's categories of Conservative and Advanced RP referred to the U-RP of the old and young respectively. However, Wells stated, "It is difficult to separate stereotype from reality" with U-RP. Writing on his blog in February 2013, Wells wrote, "If only a very small percentage of English people speak RP, as Trudgill et al. claim, then the percentage speaking U-RP is vanishingly small" and "If I were redoing it today, I think I'd drop all mention of 'U-RP'". *
UptonUpton may refer to: Places United Kingdom England * Upton, Slough Upton is a suburb of Slough in Berkshire, England. Until the local government reforms of 1974 it was in Buckinghamshire Buckinghamshire (), abbreviated Bucks, is a ceremo ...
distinguishes between RP (which he equates with Wells's "mainstream RP"), Traditional RP (after Ramsaran 1990), and an even older version which he identifies with Cruttenden's "Refined RP". * An article on the website of the
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British Library
refers to Conservative, Mainstream and Contemporary RP.


Characteristics and status

Traditionally, Received Pronunciation has been associated with high social class. It was the "everyday speech in the families of Southern English persons whose men-folk been educated at the great public boarding-schools" and which conveyed no information about that speaker's region of origin before attending the school. An 1891 teacher's handbook stated, “It is the business of educated people to speak so that no-one may be able to tell in what county their childhood was passed”. Nevertheless, in the 19th century some British prime ministers, such as
William Ewart Gladstone William Ewart Gladstone (; 29 December 1809 – 19 May 1898) was a British statesman and Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an ...

William Ewart Gladstone
, still spoke with some regional features. Opinions differ over the proportion of Britons who speak RP. Trudgill estimated 3% in 1974, but that rough estimate has been questioned by J. Windsor Lewis. Upton notes higher estimates of 5% (Romaine, 2000) and 10% (Wells, 1982) but refers to these as "guesstimates" not based on robust research. The claim that RP is non-regional is disputed, since it is most commonly found in London and the southeast of England. It is defined in the
Concise Oxford English Dictionary The ''Concise Oxford English Dictionary'' (officially titled ''The Concise Oxford Dictionary'' until 2002, and widely abbreviated ''COD'' or ''COED'') is probably the best-known of the 'smaller' Oxford dictionary, dictionaries. The latest editi ...
as "the standard accent of English as spoken in the South of England", and alternative names such as “Standard Southern British” have been used. Despite RP's historic high social prestige in Britain, being seen as the accent of those with power, money, and influence, it may be perceived negatively by some as being associated with undeserved, or accidental, privilege and as a symbol of the southeast's political power in Britain. Based on a 1997 survey, Jane Stuart-Smith wrote, "RP has little status in Glasgow, and is regarded with hostility in some quarters". A 2007 survey found that residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland tend to dislike RP. It is shunned by some with left-wing political views, who may be proud of having accents more typical of the working classes. Since the Second World War, and increasingly since the 1960s, a wider acceptance of regional English varieties has taken hold in education and public life.


Use


Media

In the early days of British broadcasting, speakers of English origin almost universally used RP. In 1926 the
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...
established an Advisory Committee on Spoken English with distinguished experts, including , to advise on the correct pronunciation and other aspects of broadcast language. The Committee proved unsuccessful and was dissolved after the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. An interesting departure from the use of RP involved the BBC's use of Yorkshire-born
Wilfred Pickles Wilfred Pickles, OBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or inspir ...
as a newsreader during the Second World War to distinguish BBC broadcasts from German propaganda. Since the Second World War RP has played a much smaller role in broadcast speech. In fact, as Catherine Sangster points out, "there is not (and never was) an official BBC pronunciation standard". RP remains the accent most often heard in the speech of announcers and newsreaders on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, and in some TV channels, but non-RP accents are now more widely encountered.


Dictionaries

Most English dictionaries published in Britain (including the
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
) now give phonetically transcribed RP pronunciations for all words. Pronunciation dictionaries represent a special class of dictionary giving a wide range of possible pronunciations: British pronunciation dictionaries are all based on RP, though not necessarily using that name. Daniel Jones transcribed RP pronunciations of words and names in the English Pronouncing Dictionary. Cambridge University Press continues to publish this title, as of 1997 edited by Peter Roach. Two other pronunciation dictionaries are in common use: the ''Longman Pronunciation Dictionary'', compiled by John C. Wells (using the name "Received Pronunciation"), and Clive Upton's ''Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English'', (now republished as ''The Routledge Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English'').


Language teaching

Pronunciation forms an essential component of language learning and teaching; a ''model accent'' is necessary for learners to aim at, and to act as a basis for description in textbooks and classroom materials. RP has been the traditional choice for teachers and learners of British English. However, the choice of pronunciation model is difficult, and the adoption of RP is in many ways problematic.


Phonology


Consonants

Nasals and
liquids A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics or more generally continuum mechanics, incompressible flow (isochoric process, isochoric flow) refers to a fluid flow, flow in which the material density is constant within a fluid par ...
(, , , , ) may be
syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables *Abugida, writing system us ...
in
unstressed syllable In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...

unstressed syllable
s. The consonant in RP is generally a
postalveolar approximant The voiced alveolar approximant is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with ...
, which would normally be expressed with the sign in the
International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic transcription, phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standa ...
, but the sign is nonetheless traditionally used for RP in most of the literature on the topic. Voiceless plosives (, , , ) are aspirated at the beginning of a syllable, unless a completely unstressed vowel follows. (For example, the is aspirated in "impasse", with primary stress on "-passe", but not "compass", where "-pass" has no stress.) Aspiration does not occur when precedes in the same syllable, as in "spot" or "stop". When a
sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
, , , or follows, this aspiration is indicated by partial
devoicing In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one ...
of the
sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
. is a
fricative Fricatives are consonants manner of articulation, produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two Place of articulation, articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the bac ...
when devoiced. Syllable final , , , and may be either preceded by a (
glottal reinforcement Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and other sonorants is most often realized as creaky voice (partial closure). Glottalization of obstruent consonant ...
) or, in the case of , fully replaced by a glottal stop, especially before a syllabic nasal (''bitten'' ). The glottal stop may be realised as
creaky voice In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
; thus, an alternative phonetic transcription of ''attempt'' could be . As in other varieties of English, voiced plosives (, , , ) are partly or even fully devoiced at utterance boundaries or adjacent to voiceless consonants. The voicing distinction between voiced and voiceless sounds is reinforced by a number of other differences, with the result that the two of consonants can clearly be distinguished even in the presence of devoicing of voiced sounds: #Aspiration of voiceless consonants syllable-initially. #Glottal reinforcement of /p, t, k, tʃ/ syllable-finally. #Shortening of vowels before voiceless consonants. As a result, some authors prefer to use the terms " fortis" and "lenis" in place of "voiceless" and "voiced". However, the latter are traditional and in more frequent usage. The voiced dental fricative () is more often a weak dental plosive; the sequence is often realised as (a long
dental nasal The voiced alveolar nasal is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the f ...
). has velarised
allophone In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of e ...
() in the
syllable rhyme A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...
. becomes voiced () between
voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study th ...
sounds.


Vowels

Examples of
short vowel In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
s: in ''kit'', ''mirror'' and ''rabbit'', in ''foot'' and ''cook'', in ''dress'' and ''merry'', in ''strut'' and ''curry'', in ''trap'' and ''marry'', in ''lot'' and ''orange'', in ''ago'' and ''sofa''. Examples of
long vowel In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
s: in ''fleece'', in ''goose'', in ''bear'', in ''nurse'' and ''furry'', in ''north'', ''force'' and ''thought'', in ''father'' and ''start''. The long mid front vowel is elsewhere transcribed with the traditional symbol . The predominant realisation in contemporary RP is
monophthong A monophthong ( ; , ) is a pure vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writ ...
al.


"Long" and "short" vowels

Many conventional descriptions of the RP vowel system group the non-diphthongal vowels into the categories "long" and "short". This should not be taken to mean that English has minimal pairs in which the only difference is vowel length. "Long" and "short" are convenient cover terms for a number of phonetic features. The long-short pairings shown above include also differences in vowel quality. The vowels called "long"
high vowel A close vowel, also known as a high vowel (in U.S. terminology), is any in a class of vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech ...
s in RP and are slightly
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
ized, and are often narrowly transcribed in phonetic literature as diphthongs and . Vowels may be phonologically long or short (i.e. belong to the long or the short group of vowel phonemes) but their length is influenced by their context: in particular, they are shortened if a voiceless ( fortis) consonant follows in the syllable, so that, for example, the vowel in 'bat' is shorter than the vowel in 'bad' . The process is known as ''pre-fortis clipping''. Thus phonologically short vowels in one context can be phonetically ''longer'' than phonologically long vowels in another context. For example, the vowel called "long" in 'reach' (which ends with a voiceless consonant) may be ''shorter'' than the vowel called "short" in the word 'ridge' (which ends with a voiced consonant). Wiik, cited in , published durations of English vowels with a mean value of 17.2 csec. for short vowels before voiced consonants but a mean value of 16.5 csec for long vowels preceding voiceless consonants. In
natural speech In neuropsychology Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology. It is concerned with how a person's cognition and behavior are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Professionals in this branch of psychology often focus on ...
, the plosives and often have no audible release utterance-finally, and voiced consonants are partly or completely devoiced (as in ); thus the perceptual distinction between pairs of words such as 'bad' and 'bat', or 'seed' and 'seat' rests mostly on vowel length (though the presence or absence of glottal reinforcement provides an additional cue). Unstressed vowels are both shorter and more centralised than stressed ones. In unstressed syllables occurring before vowels and in final position, contrasts between long and short high vowels are neutralised and short and occur (e.g. ''happy'' , ''throughout'' ). The neutralisation is common throughout many English dialects, though the phonetic realisation of e.g. rather than (a phenomenon called ''happy''-tensing) is not as universal. Unstressed vowels vary in quality: * (as in ) ranges from close front to close-mid retracted front ; * (as in ) ranges from close advanced back to close-mid retracted central ; according to the phonetician Jane Setter, the typical pronunciation of this vowel is a weakly rounded, mid-centralized
close back unrounded vowel The close back unrounded vowel, or high back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that ...
, transcribed in the IPA as or simply ; * (as in ) ranges from close-mid central to open-mid central .


Diphthongs and triphthongs

The centring diphthongs are gradually being eliminated in RP. The vowel (as in ''door'', ''boar'') had largely merged with by the Second World War, and the vowel (as in ''poor'', ''tour'') has more recently merged with as well among most speakers, although the sound is still found in conservative speakers, and in less common words such as ''boor''. See – merger. More recently has become a pure long vowel , as explained above. is increasingly pronounced as a monophthong , although without merging with any existing vowels. The diphthong is pronounced by some RP speakers in a noticeably different way when it occurs before , if that consonant is syllable-final and not followed by a vowel (the context in which is pronounced as a "dark l"). The realization of in this case begins with a more back, rounded and sometimes more open vowel quality; it may be transcribed as or . It is likely that the backness of the diphthong onset is the result of
allophonic In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one ...
variation caused by the raising of the back of the tongue for the . If the speaker has "l-vocalization" the is realized as a back rounded vowel, which again is likely to cause backing and rounding in a preceding vowel as
coarticulation Coarticulation in its general sense refers to a situation in which a conceptually isolated speech sound is influenced by, and becomes more like, a preceding or following speech sound. There are two types of coarticulation: ''anticipatory coarticulat ...
effects. This phenomenon has been discussed in several blogs by John C. Wells. In the recording included in this article the phrase "fold his cloak" contains examples of the diphthong in the two different contexts. The onset of the pre- diphthong in "fold" is slightly more back and rounded than that in "cloak", though the allophonic transcription does not at present indicate this. RP also possesses the
triphthong In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ever ...
s as in ''tire'', as in ''tower'', as in ''lower'', as in ''layer'' and as in ''loyal''. There are different possible realisations of these items: in slow, careful speech they may be pronounced as a two-syllable triphthong with three distinct vowel qualities in succession, or as a monosyllabic triphthong. In more casual speech the middle vowel may be considerably reduced, by a process known as
smoothing In statistics Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. In applying statistics to a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with ...
, and in an extreme form of this process the triphthong may even be reduced to a single vowel, though this is rare, and almost never found in the case of . In such a case the difference between , , and in ''tower'', ''tire'', and ''tar'' may be neutralised with all three units realised as or . This type of smoothing is known as the ''tower''–''tire'', ''tower''–''tar'' and ''tire''–''tar'' mergers.


BATH vowel

There are differing opinions as to whether in the BATH
lexical set A lexical set is a group of word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, si ...
can be considered RP. The pronunciations with are invariably accepted as RP. The ''English Pronouncing Dictionary'' does not admit in BATH words and the ''
Longman Pronunciation Dictionary John Christopher Wells (born 11 March 1939) is a British Phonetics, phonetician and Esperantist. Wells is a professor emeritus at University College London, where until his retirement in 2006 he held the professor, departmental chair in phonetic ...
'' lists them with a § marker of non-RP status. John Wells wrote in a blog entry on 16 March 2012 that when growing up in the north of England he used in "bath" and "glass", and considers this the only acceptable phoneme in RP. Others have argued that is too categorical in the north of England to be excluded. Clive Upton believes that in these words must be considered within RP and has called the opposing view "south-centric". Upton's ''Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English'' gives both variants for BATH words. A. F. Gupta's survey of mostly middle-class students found that was used by almost everyone who was from clearly north of the
isogloss An isogloss, also called a heterogloss (see Etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicate ...
for BATH words. She wrote, "There is no justification for the claims by Wells and Mugglestone that this is a sociolinguistic variable in the north, though it is a sociolinguistic variable on the areas on the border he isogloss between north and south. In a study of speech in West Yorkshire, K. M. Petyt wrote that "the amount of usage is too low to correlate meaningfully with the usual factors", having found only two speakers (both having attended boarding schools in the south) who consistently used . Jack Windsor Lewis has noted that the Oxford Dictionary's position has changed several times on whether to include short within its prescribed pronunciation. The ''BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names'' uses only , but its author, Graham Pointon, has stated on his blog that he finds both variants to be acceptable in place names. Some research has concluded that many people in the
North of England North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating Direction (geometry), direction or geography. Etymology Th ...

North of England
have a dislike of the vowel in BATH words. A. F. Gupta wrote, "Many of the northerners were noticeably hostile to , describing it as 'comical', 'snobbish', 'pompous' or even 'for morons'." On the subject, K. M. Petyt wrote that several respondents "positively said that they did not prefer the long-vowel form or that they really detested it or even that it was incorrect". Mark Newbrook has assigned this phenomenon the name "conscious rejection", and has cited the vowel as "the main instance of conscious rejection of RP" in his research in West Wirral.


French words

John Wells has argued that, as educated British speakers often attempt to pronounce French names in a French way, there is a case for including (as in ''bon''), and and (as in ''vingt-et-un''), as marginal members of the RP vowel system. He also argues against including other French vowels on the grounds that very few British speakers succeed in distinguishing the vowels in ''bon'' and ''banc'', or in ''rue'' and ''roue''.


Alternative notation

Not all reference sources use the same system of transcription. In particular: * as in ''trap'' is also written . * as in ''dress'' is also written . * as in ''cup'' is also written . * as in ''foot'' is also written . * as in ''nurse'' is also written . * as in ''price'' is also written . * as in ''mouse'' is also written * as in ''square'' is also written and . * as in ''face'' is also written . * as in ''near'' is also written . * before in a closed syllable as in ''goal'' is also written . * as in ''goose'' is also written . Most of these variants are used in the transcription devised by Clive Upton for the ''
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary The ''Shorter Oxford English Dictionary'' (''SOED'') is an English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structure ...
'' (1993) and now used in many other
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press A university press is an academic publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for fre ...

Oxford University Press
dictionaries. The linguist
Geoff Lindsey Geoff Lindsey is a United Kingdom, British writer and director who has written episodes for television series including the BBC soap opera ''EastEnders'' and ''The Bill''. Lindsey trained in directing at the Arts University Bournemouth, Bournemout ...
has argued that the system of transcription for RP has become outdated and has proposed a new system as a replacement.


Historical variation

Like all accents, RP has changed with time. For example, sound recordings and films from the first half of the 20th century demonstrate that it was usual for speakers of RP to pronounce the sound, as in ''land'', with a vowel close to , so that ''land'' would sound similar to a present-day pronunciation of ''lend''. RP is sometimes known as the Queen's English, but recordings show that even
Queen Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy A constitutional mo ...

Queen Elizabeth II
has changed her pronunciation over the past 50 years, no longer using an -like vowel in words like ''land''. The change in RP may be observed in the home of "BBC English". The BBC accent of the 1950s is distinctly different from today's: a news report from the 1950s is recognisable as such, and a mock-1950s BBC voice is used for comic effect in programmes wishing to satirise 1950s social attitudes such as the Harry Enfield Show and its "Mr. Cholmondley-Warner" sketches. A few illustrative examples of changes in RP during the 20th century and early 21st are given below. A more comprehensive list (using the name 'General British' in place of 'RP') is given in ''Gimson's Pronunciation of English''.


Vowels and diphthongs

* Words such as , ''gone'', ''off'', ''often'', ''salt'' were pronounced with instead of , so that ''often'' and ''orphan'' were
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct ...
s (see ''lot''–''cloth'' split). The Queen still uses the older pronunciations, but it is now rare to hear this on the BBC. * There used to be a distinction between ''horse'' and ''hoarse'' with an extra diphthong appearing in words like ''hoarse'', , and ''pour''. The symbols used by Wright are slightly different: the sound in ''fall, law, saw'' is transcribed as and that in ''more, soar,'' etc. as . gives an account of the /ɔə/ diphthong, but notes "many speakers of Received English (''sic''), myself among them, do not use the diphthong at all, but replace it always by /ɔː/". * The vowel in words such as ''tour'', ''moor'', ''sure'' used to be , but this has merged with for many contemporary speakers. The effect of these two mergers (horse-hoarse and 'moor - 'more') is to bring about a number of three-way mergers of items which were hitherto distinct, such as ''poor'', ''paw'' and ''pore'' (, , ) all becoming . * The vowel and the starting point of the FACE diphthong has become lowered from mid to open-mid . * Before the Second World War, the vowel of ''cup'' was a back vowel close to
cardinal Cardinal or The Cardinal may refer to: Christianity * Cardinal (Catholic Church), a senior official of the Catholic Church * Cardinal (Church of England), two members of the College of Minor Canons of St. Paul's Cathedral Navigation * Cardina ...
but has since shifted forward to a central position so that is more accurate; phonemic transcription of this vowel as /ʌ/ is still common largely for historical reasons. * There has been a change in the pronunciation of the unstressed final vowel of 'happy' as a result of a process known as happY-tensing: an older pronunciation of 'happy' would have had the vowel /ɪ/ whereas a more modern pronunciation has a vowel nearer to /iː/. In pronunciation handbooks and dictionaries it is now common to use the symbol /i/ to cover both possibilities. * In a number of words where contemporary RP has an unstressed syllable with schwa , older pronunciations had , for instance, the final vowel in the following: ''kindness'', ''witness'', ''toilet'', ''fortunate''.Robinson, Jonnie (24 April 2019). "Received Pronunciation". The British Library. Retrieved 16 December 2019. * The phoneme (as in ''fair'', ''care'', ''there'') was realized as a centring diphthong in the past, whereas many present-day speakers of RP pronounce it as a long monophthong . * A change in the symbolization of the GOAT diphthong reflects a change in the pronunciation of the starting point: older accounts of this diphthong describe it as starting with a tongue position not far from cardinal moving towards This was often symbolized as /ou/ or /oʊ/. In modern RP the starting point is unrounded and central, and is symbolized /əʊ/. * In a study of a group of speakers born between 1981 and 1993, it was observed that the vowel had shifted upward, approaching in quality. * The vowels and have undergone fronting and reduction in the amount of lip-rounding (phonetically, these can be transcribed and , respectively). * As noted above, has become more open, near to cardinal .


Consonants

* For speakers of Received Pronunciation in the late 19th century, it was common for the consonant combination (as in ''which'', ''whistle'', ''whether'') to be realised as a voiceless labio-velar fricative (also transcribed ), as can still be heard in the 21st century in the speech of many speakers in Ireland, Scotland and parts of the US. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the phoneme has ceased to be a feature of RP, except in an exaggeratedly precise style of speaking ( the wine-whine merger). * There has been considerable growth in
glottalization Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and other sonorants is most often realized as creaky voice (partial closure). Glottalization of obstruent consonan ...
in RP, most commonly in the form of
glottal reinforcement Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and other sonorants is most often realized as creaky voice (partial closure). Glottalization of obstruent consonant ...
. This has been noted by writers on RP since quite early in the 20th century. Ward notes pronunciations such as juːʔtrəlfor ''neutral'' and eʔkləsfor ''reckless''. Glottalization of /tʃ/ is widespread in present-day RP when at the end of a stressed syllable, as in ''butcher'' [bʊʔtʃə]. * The realization of /r/ as a Tap and flap consonants, tap or flap [ɾ] has largely disappeared from RP, though it can be heard in films and broadcasts from the first half of the 20th century. The word ''very'' was frequently pronounced [veɾɪ]. The same sound, however, is sometimes pronounced as an allophone of /t/ when it occurs intervocalically after a stressed syllable - the Flapping, "flapped /t/" that is familiar in American English. Phonetically, this sounds more like /d/, and the pronunciation is sometimes known as /t/-voicing.


Word-specific changes

A number of cases can be identified where changes in the pronunciation of individual words, or small groups of words, have taken place. * The word ''Mass'' (referring to the religious ritual) was often pronounced /mɑːs/ in older versions of RP, but the word is now almost always /mæs/. * A few words spelt with initial used to be pronounced without the /h/ phoneme that is heard in present-day RP. Examples are ''hotel'' and ''historic'': the older pronunciation required 'an' rather than 'a' as a preceding indefinite article, thus 'an hotel' /ən əʊtel/, 'an historic day' /ən ɪstɒrɪk deɪ/.


Comparison with other varieties of English

* Like most other varieties of English outside Northern England, RP has undergone the foot–strut split, ''foot''–''strut'' split (pairs ''nut''/''put'' differ). * RP is a Rhoticity in English, non-rhotic accent, so does not occur unless followed immediately by a vowel (pairs such as ''caught''/''court'' and ''formally''/''formerly'' are homophones, save that ''formerly'' may be said with a hint of /r/ to help to differentiate it, particularly where stressed for reasons of emphasising past status e.g. "He was FORMERLY in charge here."). * Unlike most North American accents of English, RP has not undergone the Mary–marry–merry merger, ''Mary''–''marry''–''merry'', Mirror–nearer merger, ''nearer''–''mirror'', or English-language vowel changes before historic r#Hurry–furry merger, ''hurry''–''furry'' mergers: all these words are distinct from each other. * Unlike many North American accents, RP has not undergone the Father–bother merger, ''father''–''bother'' or Cot–caught merger, ''cot''–''caught'' mergers. * RP does not have English consonant-cluster reductions#Yod-dropping, yod-dropping after , , , and , but most speakers of RP variably or consistently ''yod''-drop after and — ''new'', ''tune'', ''dune'', ''resume'' and ''enthusiasm'' are pronounced , , , and rather than , , , and . This contrasts with many East Anglian English, East Anglian and East Midlands English, East Midland varieties of English language in England and with many forms of American English, including
General American General American English or General American (abbreviated GA or GenAm) is the umbrella accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (p ...

General American
. Hence also ''pursuit'' is commonly heard with and ''revolutionary'' less so but more commonly than ''evolution''. For a subset of these, a yod has been lost over time: for example, in all of the words beginning ''suit'', however the yod is sometimes deliberately reinserted in historical or stressed contexts such as "a suit in chancery" or "suitable for an aristocrat". * The flapping, flapped variant of and (as in much of the West Country, Ulster, most North American varieties including General American, Australian English, and the Cape Coloured dialect of South Africa) is not used very often. * RP has undergone wine–whine merger, ''wine''–''whine'' merger (so the sequence is not present except among those who have acquired this distinction as the result of speech training). The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, based in London, still teaches these two sounds for international breadth as distinct phonemes. They are also distinct from one another in most of Scotland and Ireland, in the northeast of England, and in the southeastern United States. * Unlike some other varieties of English language in England, there is no h-dropping, ''h''-dropping in words like ''head'' or ''horse''. In hurried phrases such as "as hard as he could" h-dropping commonly applies to the word ''he''. * Unlike most Southern Hemisphere English accents, RP has not undergone the weak-vowel merger, meaning that pairs such as ''Lenin''/''Lennon'' are distinct. *In traditional RP is an
allophone In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of e ...
of (it is used intervocalically, after , and sometimes even after , ).


Spoken specimen

The ''Journal of the International Phonetic Association'' regularly publishes "Illustrations of the IPA" which present an outline of the phonetics of a particular language or accent. It is usual to base the description on a recording of the traditional story of the North Wind and the Sun. There is an IPA illustration of British English (Received Pronunciation). The speaker (female) is described as having been born in 1953, and educated at Oxford University. To accompany the recording there are three transcriptions: orthographic, phonemic and allophonic.
Phonemic Allophonic Orthographic The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveller came along wrapped in a warm cloak. They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveller take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other. Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveller fold his cloak around him, and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shone out warmly, and immediately the traveller took off his cloak. And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.


Notable speakers

The following people have been described as RP speakers: *David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist * The British Royal Family * David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the UK (2010–2016) * Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, aristocrat and writer *Judi Dench, actress *Joanna Lumley, actress, TV documentary presenter, campaigner and former model * Rupert Everett, actor * Lady Antonia Fraser, author and historian * Christopher Hitchens, late author and journalist * Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK (2019–present) * Vanessa Kirby, actress * Helen Mirren, actress * Carey Mulligan, actress * Jeremy Paxman, broadcaster and TV presenter * Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons * Brian Sewell, art critic * Ed Stourton, broadcaster and journalist * Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK (1979–1990) * Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury (2002–2012) * Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (2013–present)


See also

* Accents (psychology) * English language in the United Kingdom * English language spelling reform * Mid-Atlantic accent * Linguistic prescription * Prestige (sociolinguistics) * U and non-U English


Notes and references


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


BBC page on Upper RP as spoken by the English upper-classes

Sounds Familiar?
isten to examples of received pronunciation on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website

and compare it with other accents from the UK and around the World.

– An article by the phonetician John C. Wells, J. C. Wells about received pronunciation Sources of regular comment on RP
John Wells's phonetic blog



''Linguism – Language in a word'', blog by Graham Pointon of the BBC Pronunciation Unit
Audio files
Blagdon Hall, Northumberland

Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk

Harrow

Hexham, Northumberland

London

Newport, Pembrokeshire

Teddington
{{Language phonologies English language in England Standard English Standard languages