Today we will get acquainted with the "royal" English, Received Pronunciation, which is considered the benchmark of British pronunciation, spoken by Elizabeth II herself, and which foreign students are trying so hard to teach. What is Received Pronunciation, how this accent appeared, why it became a model of British reprimand and whether it is advisable to teach it now: about all this in our article.
“I want to learn British English!” Say many students. But the question fairly arises: which one? In Britain, every 20 kilometers you will meet a new dialect. The carriers of one dialect may not understand the carriers of another at all. English is generally remarkable because it is scattered throughout the world and has speakers in several countries at once. These people speak English from birth, but it is often the case that, for example, an Australian can’t understand Irish at point-blank (although the latter speaks English - just his version).
But standards still exist. The standard language of a country is the language in which television and radio broadcasting and periodicals are published, available throughout the country. This is the literary norm, which we adhere to in a formal setting. In the UK, such a rule also exists. It is called Received Pronunciation
, and it is for her that students who dream of speaking in "British English" sigh. RP is an accent, not a dialect, so you can really master it yourself. But is it necessary? And where did he come from, this accent?
No one knows for sure at what point people suddenly began to talk at RP. It is believed that, most likely, this emphasis originated in the East Midlands region in England around the 15th century. At that time, this region flourished at the expense of trade, so the merchants who lived there and spoke the local dialect often traveled and literally “carried” their reprimand around the country and beyond. Trade was very active, and over time, local emphasis became associated with economic success. Over time, trade shifted to London and south, but the RP was still considered the accent of the rich and powerful.
In 1869, linguist Alexander Ellis finally gave an accent, which at that time was nameless, the name Received Pronunciation. Many wonder: why received, “acquired”, “received”? The fact is that this is an incorrect translation. In 1869, the word received meant "approved," "generally accepted," "traditional," and even "popular." They just designated this term as the speech of the elite, and only in 1926 the phonetician Daniel Jones included it in the second edition of the Dictionary on Pronunciation - English Pronouncing Dictionary (1926).
Towards the end of the 19th century, a grandiose reform in the field of education took place: the British realized that they needed to introduce a “language of instruction” - a kind of norm that would be used by university students in Britain. A special committee was created to create a standard "British accent." However, I didn't have to create anything. At that time, RP and Yorkshire fought for the title of the most appropriate accents, and RP simply won by a margin of votes.
It turns out that for several centuries the elite, the upper classes of society, had their own accent, which was actively passed on to children. RP became the language of the educated and the rich, and everyone who was poor and could not afford a brilliant education dreamed to speak it. The theme of accents rises in the mass of literary works: this, for example, is Bernard Shaw with his “My Fair Lady”, and thousands of works where a pronounced character accent has always been associated with his origin.
Radio and television appear in the 20th century, the BBC is born. Speakers, theater and film actors all spoke in Received Pronunciation as the British accent itself. So it was thought, because of all the existing accents RP was the most neutral in territorial terms. If a person spoke in a well-placed RP, no one could understand where he came from. The only thing that gave such an accent was the origin and education. Numerous polls have shown that RP is also the most pleasant to the ear.
Until the early 1980s, the emphasis of the elite maintained a strong position, after which a new movement appeared: the British realized that education was now available to anyone who wanted to, and no more than 2% of the population speaks RP from birth. So why insist on using this emphasis in the media? So on radio and television speakers began to appear with the characteristic accents of a particular locality.
What happened to RP now?
Now Received Pronunciation is alive and well, but not so popular anymore. It is spoken less and less, young people practically do not speak at all. He continues to teach future speakers and actors, however, attempts have been made to change that. So, linguist David Crystal and his son Ben Crystal wrote a whole book about dialects, in particular, about OP - original pronunciation
. Linguists have done an enormous amount of work to recreate the accent that the characters of the Shakespearean plays spoke (which are still considered the pearl of the British scene and have enjoyed incredible success in theaters), and now the production directors have switched to this recreated accent - OP. It is reasonable: for some reason, the characters of Shakespeare communicated on RP for some reason, on which they couldn’t speak at all.
RP is no longer the language of radio and television. Of course, it can be heard here and there, only it is considered old-fashioned. The carriers of regional dialects can no longer be retrained and speak their usual dialect on the air.
RP retains leadership in terms of linguistic theory and teaching. Here he competes with the GA - General American
, the American standard. British dictionaries write transcriptions according to RP, and American dictionaries write to GA. When you click on the microphone icon in the online dictionary, you hear either RP or GA. And, of course, if your textbook is marked with the British Edition
, then rest assured: the listening assignments will be recited there on the RP, that is, the literary standard of the British English.
Is royal English?
Not. Of course, the queen speaks the standard, but not all the words she utters according to the RP norm, and that one can find confirmation in any speech that Elizabeth utters. Her offsprings also try to be closer to their subjects and depart from the reference standard when they communicate with them.
Do I need to teach him?
Theoretically, of course, it is necessary. Many traditional academic textbooks do not deviate from the principle of “teaching RP”, but new manuals are gradually moving to listening, read by speakers of different dialects. If you speak RP, you will be understood. But you will sound strange.
English has become the international language of business, so if you learn the language for work, you will hear many accents of non-native speakers, for whom English is also the second foreign language.
In any case, you should know: language is a flexible thing and responsive to the social environment. Who knows, maybe in 20 years some other accent will replace RP. But by that time you will definitely say no worse than the queen herself.
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