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Received Pronunciation (RP) is the standard accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms. RP is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as "the standard accent of English as spoken in the south of England", although it can be heard from native speakers throughout England, Wales as well as in Malta, in particular in the north harbour areas of Sliema, St. Julian's and their surrounding towns where a large percentage of the region's population is composed of native English speakers.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Malta) Peter Trudgill estimated in 1974 that 3% of people in Britain were RP speakers.
Although there is nothing intrinsic about RP that marks it as superior to any other variety, sociolinguistic factors have given Received Pronunciation particular prestige in parts of Britain. It has thus been the accent of those with power, money and influence since the early to mid 20th century, though it has more recently been criticised as a symbol of undeserved privilege. However, since the 1960s, a greater permissiveness towards allowing regional English varieties has taken hold in education and the media in Britain; in some contexts conservative RP is now perceived negatively.
It is important not to confuse the notion of Received Pronunciation, as a standard accent, with the standard variety of the English language used in England that is given names such as "Standard English", "the Queen's English", "Oxford English" or "BBC English". The study of RP is concerned exclusively with pronunciation, while study of the standard language is also concerned with matters such as grammar, vocabulary and style.
1.1 Alternative names,
2.1 In dictionaries,
4.2.1 The BATH vowel,
4.3 Historical variation,
4.4 Comparison with other varieties of English,
5 Notable speakers,
6 See also,
7 Notes and references,
9 External links,
The introduction of the term 'Received Pronunciation' is usually credited to Daniel Jones. In the first edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917) he named the accent "Public School Pronunciation", but for the second edition in 1926 he wrote "In what follows I call it Received Pronunciation (abbreviation RP), for want of a better term." However, the expression had actually been used much earlier by Alexander Ellis in 1869 and Peter DuPonceau in 1818 (the term used by Henry C. K. Wyld in 1927 was "received standard"). According to Fowler's Modern English Usage (1965), the correct term is "the Received Pronunciation". The word received conveys its original meaning of accepted or approved - as in "received wisdom".
The reference to this pronunciation as Oxford English is because it was traditionally the common speech of Oxford University; the production of dictionaries gave Oxford University prestige in matters of language. The extended versions of the Oxford English Dictionary give Received Pronunciation guidelines for each word.
RP is an accent (a form of pronunciation) and a register, rather than a dialect (a form of vocabulary and grammar as well as pronunciation). It may show a great deal about the social and educational background of a person who uses English. Anyone using RP will typically speak Standard English although the reverse is not necessarily true (e.g. the standard language may be pronounced with a regional accent, such as a Scottish or Yorkshire Accent; but it is very unlikely that someone speaking RP would use it to speak the Scots or the Yorkshire Dialect).
RP is often believed to be based on the Southern accents of England, but it actually has most in common with the Early Modern English dialects of the East Midlands. This was the most populated and most prosperous area of England during the 14th and 15th centuries. By the end of the 15th century, "Standard English" was established in the City of London. A mixture of London speech with elements from East Midlands, Middlesex and Essex, became known as Received Pronunciation. By the 1970s it was estimated that 3% of British people were RP speakers.
Some linguists have used the term RP but expressed reservations about its suitability. The Cambridge-published English Pronouncing Dictionary (aimed at those learning English as a foreign language) uses the term "BBC Pronunciation" on the basis that the name "Received Pronunciation" is "archaic" and that BBC news-presenters no longer suggest high social class and privilege to their listeners. The name "BBC Pronunciation" has been used by other writers. The phonetician Jack Windsor Lewis frequently criticises the name "Received Pronunciation" on his blog: he has called it "invidious", a "ridiculously archaic, parochial and question-begging term" and argued that American scholars find the term "quite curious". He used the term "General British" to parallel "General American" in his 1970s publication of A Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of American and British English and subsequent publications. Beverley Collins and Inger Mees use the phrase "Non-Regional Pronunciation" for what is often otherwise called RP, and reserve the phrase "Received Pronunciation" for the "upper-class speech of the twentieth century".
The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association uses the name "Standard Southern British". Page 4 reads:
Standard Southern British (where 'Standard' should not be taken as implying a value judgment of 'correctness') is the modern equivalent of what has been called 'Received Pronunciation' ('RP'). It is an accent of the south east of England which operates as a prestige norm there and (to varying degrees) in other parts of the British Isles and beyond.
Faced with the difficulty of defining RP, many writers have tried to distinguish between different sub-varieties. Gimson (1980) proposed Conservative, General, and Advanced; Conservative RP refers to a traditional accent associated with older speakers with certain social backgrounds; General RP is often considered neutral regarding age, occupation, or lifestyle of the speaker; and Advanced RP refers to speech of a younger generation of speakers. Later editions (e.g. Gimson 2008) use General, Refined and Regional. Wells (1982) 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 that "It is difficult to separate stereotype from reality" with U-RP.
The modern style of RP is an accent often taught to non-native speakers learning British English. Non-RP Britons abroad may modify their pronunciation to something closer to Received Pronunciation to be better understood by people unfamiliar with the diversity of British accents. They may also modify their vocabulary and grammar to be closer to those of Standard English for the same reason. RP is often used as the standard for English in most books on general phonology and phonetics, and is represented in the pronunciation schemes of most dictionaries published in the United Kingdom.
Daniel Jones transcribed RP pronunciations of all common words in his English Pronouncing Dictionary. This is still being published by Cambridge University Press, and is now edited by Peter Roach. There are two other pronunciation dictionaries in common use: the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, compiled by John C Wells, and the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English, compiled by Clive Upton.
Traditionally, Received Pronunciation was the "everyday speech in the families of Southern English persons whose men-folk had been educated at the great public boarding-schools" and which conveyed no information about that speaker's region of origin before attending the school.
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.
--A. Burrell, Recitation. A Handbook for Teachers in Public Elementary School, 1891
In the 19th century, there were still British prime ministers who spoke with some regional features, such as William Ewart Gladstone. From the 1970s onwards, attitudes towards Received Pronunciation have been changing slowly. The BBC's use of Yorkshire-born Wilfred Pickles during the Second World War (to distinguish BBC broadcasts from German propaganda) is an earlier example of the use of non-RP accents, but even then Pickles modified his speech towards RP when reading the news.
Although admired in some circles, RP is disliked in others. It is common in parts of Britain to regard it as a south-eastern English accent rather than a non-regional one and as a symbol of the south-east's political power in Britain. 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 an accent more typical of the working classes. The British band Chumbawamba recorded a song entitled "R.I.P. RP", which is part of their album The Boy Bands Have Won.
When consonants appear in pairs, voiceless consonants appear on the left and voiced consonants appear on the right
Nasals and liquids (/m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /r/, /l/) may be syllabic in unstressed syllables.
Voiceless plosives (/p/, /t/, /k/, /tʃ/) are aspirated at the beginning of a syllable, unless a completely unstressed vowel follows. (For example, the /p/ is aspirated in "impasse", with secondary stress on "-passe", but not "compass", where "-pass" has no stress.) Aspiration does not occur when /s/ precedes in the same syllable, as in "spot" or "stop". When a sonorant /l/, /r/, /w/, or /j/ follows, this aspiration is indicated by partial devoicing of the sonorant./r/ is a fricative when devoiced.
Syllable final /p/, /t/, /tʃ/, and /k/ may be either preceded by a glottal stop (glottal reinforcement) or, in the case of /t/, fully replaced by a glottal stop, especially before a syllabic nasal (bitten ˈbɪʔn̩). The glottal stop may be realised as creaky voice; thus, an alternative phonetic transcription of attempt əˈtʰemʔt could be əˈtʰemm̰t.
As in other varieties of English, voiced plosives (/b/, /d/, /ɡ/, /dʒ/) 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 voiceless consonants syllable-finally.,
Lengthening of vowels before voiced 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 (/ð/) is more often a weak dental plosive; the sequence /nð/ is often realised as n̪n̪ (a long interdental nasal)./l/ has velarised allophone (l̴) in the syllable rhyme./h/ becomes voiced (ɦ) between voiced sounds.
^* While most dictionary publishers use /e/, the actual realisation is ɛ~e̞.
Examples of short vowels: /ɪ/ in kit, mirror and rabbit, /ʊ/ in put, /e/ in dress and merry, /ʌ/ in strut and curry, /æ/ in trap and marry, /ɒ/ in lot and orange, /ə/ in ago and sofa.
Examples of long vowels: /iː/ in fleece, /uː/ in goose, /ɜː/ in nurse and furry, /ɔː/ in north, force and thought, /ɑː/ in father, bath and start.
RP's long vowels are slightly diphthongised. Especially the high vowels /iː/ and /uː/ which are often narrowly transcribed in phonetic literature as diphthongs ɪi and ʊu.
"Long" and "short" are relative to each other. Because of phonological process affecting vowel length, short vowels in one context can be longer than long vowels in another context. For example, the long vowel /iː/ in 'reach' /riːtʃ/ (which ends with a voiceless consonant) may be shorter than the short vowel /ɪ/ in the word 'ridge' /rɪdʒ/ (which ends with a voiced consonant). Wiik, cited in Gimson, 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.
Conversely, the short vowel /æ/ becomes longer if it is followed by a voiced consonant. Thus, bat is pronounced bæʔt and bad is bæːd. In natural speech, the plosives /t/ and /d/ may be unreleased utterance-finally, and voiced consonants partly or completely devoiced (as in b̥æːd̥); thus distinction between these words would rest mostly on vowel length and the presence or absence of glottal reinforcement.
In addition to such length distinctions, 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 i and u occur (e.g. happy ˈhæpi, throughout θɹuˈaʊʔt). The neutralisation is common throughout many English dialects, though the phonetic realisation of e.g. i rather than ɪ (a phenomenon called happy-tensing) is not as universal.
The centring diphthongs are gradually being eliminated in RP. The vowel /ɔə/ (as in "door", "boar") had largely merged with /ɔː/ by the Second World War, and the vowel /ʊə/ (as in "poor", "tour") has more recently merged with /ɔː/ as well among most speakers, although the sound /ʊə/ is still found in conservative speakers (and this is still the only pronunciation given in the OED). See poor-pour merger. The remaining two centring glides |/ɪə/ /eə/ are increasingly pronounced as long monophthongs ɪː ɛː, although without merging with any existing vowels.
RP also possesses the triphthongs /aɪə/ as in ire, /aʊə/ as in hour, /əʊə/ as in lower, /eɪə/ as in layer and /ɔɪə/ 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, 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 /ɔɪə/. In such a case the difference between /aʊə/, /aɪə/, and /ɑː/ may be neutralised with all three units realised as ɑː or äː.
As two syllables
Loss of mid-element
Further simplified as
Not all reference sources use the same system of transcription. In particular:
/æ/ as in trap is also written /a/.,
/e/ as in dress is also written /ɛ/.,
/ʌ/ as in cup is also written /ɐ/.,
/ʊ/ as in foot is also written /ɵ/.,
/ɜː/ as in nurse is also written /əː/.,
/aɪ/ as in price is also written /ʌɪ/.,
/aʊ/ as in mouse is also written /ɑʊ/,
/eə/ as in square is also written /ɛə/, and is also sometimes treated as a long monophthong /ɛː/.,
/eɪ/ as in face is also written /ɛɪ/.,
/ɪə/ as in near is also written /ɪː/.,
/əʊ/ before /l/ in a closed syllable as in goal is also written /ɔʊ/.,
/uː/ as in goose is also written /ʉː/.,
Most of these variants are used in the transcription devised by Clive Upton for the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) and now used in many other Oxford University Press dictionaries.
The linguist Geoff Lindsey has argued that the system of transcription for RP has become outdated and has proposed a new system as a replacement.
The BATH vowel:
There are differing opinions as regards whether /æ/ in the BATH lexical set can be considered RP. The pronunciations with /ɑː/ are invariably accepted as RP. The English Pronouncing Dictionary does not admit /æ/ in BATH words and the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary 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 /ɑː/ in "bath" and "glass", and considers this the only acceptable phoneme in RP. Others have argued that /æ/ is too categorical in the north of England to be excluded. Clive Upton believes that /æ/ 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 /æ/ was used by almost everyone who was from clearly north of the isogloss for BATH words. He 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 the isogloss between north and south". In a study of speech in West Yorkshire, K. M. Petyt wrote that "the amount of /ɑː/ 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 /ɑː/.
Jack Windsor Lewis has noted that the Oxford Dictionary's position has changed several times on whether to include short /æ/ within its prescribed pronunciation. The BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names uses only /ɑː/, 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 have a dislike of the /ɑː/ vowel in BATH words. A. F. Gupta wrote, "Many of the northerners were noticeably hostile to /ɡrɑːs/, 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 BATH vowel as "the main instance of conscious rejection of RP" in his research in West Wirral.
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 /æ/ sound, as in land, with a vowel close to ɛ, 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 has changed her pronunciation over the past 50 years, no longer using an ɛ-like vowel in words like land.
Some changes in RP during the 20th century include:
Words such as cloth, gone, off, often were pronounced with /ɔː/ (as in General American) instead of /ɒ/, so that often sounded close to orphan (See lot-cloth split). The Queen still uses the older pronunciations, but it is rare to hear them on the BBC any more.,
There was a distinction between horse and hoarse with an extra diphthong /ɔə/ appearing in words like hoarse, force, and pour.,
Any final y on a word is now represented as an /i/ - a symbol to cover either the traditional /ɪ/ or the more modern /iː/, the latter of which has been common in the south of England for some time.,
Before the Second World War, the vowel of cup was a back vowel close to cardinal ʌ but has since shifted forward to a central position so that ɐ is more accurate; phonetic transcription of this vowel as ⟨ʌ⟩ is common partly for historical reasons.,
In the 1960s the transcription /əʊ/ started to be used for the "GOAT" vowel instead of Daniel Jones's /oʊ/, reflecting a change in pronunciation since the beginning of the century.,
The change in RP may even be observed in the home of "BBC English". The BBC accent of the 1950s was 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.
More recently, in speakers born between 1981 and 1993, the vowel /ɒ/ shifted up approaching ɔ in quality, and the vowels /ʊ/ and /uː/ have undergone fronting and /æ/ became more open.
Comparison with other varieties of English:
Like most other varieties of English outside Northern England, RP has undergone the foot-strut split: pairs like put/putt are pronounced differently.,
RP is a non-rhotic accent, so /r/ does not occur unless followed immediately by a vowel. Pairs such as father/farther, pawn/porn, caught/court and formally/formerly are homophones.,
RP has undergone the wine-whine merger so the sequence /hw/ 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 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 many other varieties of English language in England, there is no h-dropping in words like head or horse.,
Unlike most Southern Hemisphere English accents, RP has not undergone the weak-vowel merger, meaning that pairs such as Lenin/Lennon are distinct.,
Unlike most North American accents of English, RP has not undergone the Mary-marry-merry, nearer-mirror, or hurry-furry mergers: all these words are distinct from each other.,
Unlike many North American accents, RP has not undergone the father-bother or cot-caught mergers.,
RP does not have yod-dropping after /n/, /t/, /d/, /z/ and /θ/ and has only variable yod-dropping after /s/ and /l/. Hence, for example, new, tune, dune, resume and enthusiasm are pronounced /njuː/, /tjuːn/, /djuːn/, /rɪˈzjuːm/ and /ɪnˈθjuːziæzm/ rather than /nuː/, /tuːn/, /duːn/, /rɪˈzuːm/ and /ɪnˈθuːziæzm/. This contrasts with many East Anglian and East Midland varieties of English language in England and with many forms of American English, including General American. In words such as pursuit and evolution, both pronunciations (with and without /j/) are heard in RP. There are, however, several words where a yod has been lost with the passage of time: for example, the word suit originally had a yod in RP but this is now extremely rare.,
The flapped variant of /t/ and /d/ (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. In traditional RP ɾ is an allophone of /r/ (used only intervocalically).,
John C. Wells, a notable British phonetician, has identified the following people as RP speakers:
The British Royal Family,
David Cameron, Prime Minister,
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London,
Rowan Williams, Former Archbishop of Canterbury,
David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist,
Rupert Everett, actor,
Chris Huhne, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.,
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury