A Conversation for RP - Received Pronunciation
Cap'n BK Started conversation Jan 15, 2003
Is there a Reeived French, German, or whatever? Is there a Received American? (there's a thought) What about Arabic? People from many different countries speak that, either as part of their culture or part of their religion. I know there are regional French and German accents, from friends who teach those languages. From experience I know that various Arab nationalities speak different Arabic. I worked with Arabs in Saudi Arabia many years ago, and they were always slagging each other off about it. A good way to start a rammy was to try out your pathetic attempts at Arabic in front of what you knew to be a mixed crowd (very nice people, by the way). Of course I never heard them at prayer, not that I would have noticed anything anyway.... Or is RP an English (as in England) thing? Just random thoughts stumbling through my Scottish brain.
Recumbentman Posted Jan 18, 2003
Well P. D'antic-B'stard, your compatriots have made a large input into "correct" if not "received" English, as both the editor of the original Oxford English Dictionary and the current Chambers came from Scotland, which is no doubt the reason why we can use "ou" "ae" "ky" "na" "oi/oy" and "ee" and many other useful barbarisms in Scrabble, Chambers being the official reference work.
The French have their Académie Française but that seems to be more focussed on resisting neologisms than on pronunciation; the Germans pride themselves on a grammar so complex that virtually no-one writes it correctly. Proper German is said to be spoken in Hamburg or Hanover I think, the rest of the regions laughing at each other on and off, most particularly at the Prussians (Berlin) and Bavarians. Similarly Italian girls are sent to polish up their accent in Lucca, every other region having its peculiar dialect and special pronunciations. Romans affect not to understand Neapolitans.
The Spanish don't all lisp -- that's a Castilian speciality and not much observed in the South, the Canaries or the New World. There's a story that the lisp was first cultivated by courtiers taking the pith out of some (no doubt Hapsburg) monarch who was essiphonally-challenged.
Americans have no "favored accent", which is why it's possible for Liam Neeson to use a ghastly mishmash and it will (apparently) pass for American. But then the Americans famously trash their language . . . and not just Dan Quayle and George W: even New Englander J F Kennedy committed a major howler: when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner" it would appear he was calling himself a bun -- he should have said "Ich bin Berliner".
Not fair! His English was raather good. If there ever were such a thing as "Received American" pronunciation I would imagine it sounding like Tom Lehrer.
Flying Betty- Now with added nickname tag! Posted Jan 30, 2003
You're exactly right about that. There is no such thing as Received American English, but the basic standard for American English can usually be found spoken by a newscaster on a national news show. I guess what would be thought of as the Received accent is sort of a Mid-Atlantic accent with all of the regional character taken out, so you get something that's vaguely familiar sounding to anyone in America but not quite what any actual person would speak.
Daniel Allington Posted May 12, 2003
I guess that when you say there's no Received American, you mean that there's no standard that Americans have to feel bad about if they don't live up to. However, British RP does have another use than letting people like me know that we weren't born for money.
I teach English as a Foreign Language, and RP is important in my profession because it is the basis for the standard pronunciation of various words for international learners who want to use 'British English'. If they want to learn 'American English', the focus is on something called GA, or General American, which is supposedly based on the accent of educated people in the Chicago area.
This does have an impact on ordinary Americans though, even if they don't know it. For example, studies have found that lower class New Yorkers who want to progress into high society make an effort to pronounce the 'r's in sentences like 'Park your car in the yard'.
Recumbentman Posted May 12, 2003
That's curious, since Received English speakers park their cars in the yard without sounding a single r. I find it funny to see the phonetic pronunciation guides in phrase books tell you 'bus' is pronounced 'bas' and so on. We do a grand full-bodied 'bus' here in Dublin.
Shibboleths! The thing Bernard Shaw fulminated against. 'Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?'
In my job (music teaching) there are just as silly things going on. Kids are sent in to do piano exams, playing pieces they know by heart, and they pee themselves in their anxiety to turn the page at the right moment, for fear the examiner will see they're not reading from the copy (I refuse to call a piece of paper 'music'). Yet a concerto soloist coming on stage clutching a copy gets no extra marks.
Though it's not true to say that RE = Rich-people's English. That's another area altogether. Old money (aristocracy) speaks a lingo the rest fall about laughing at, while new money comes in all flavours.
Daniel Allington Posted May 13, 2003
The distinction between old money and new money is important, I guess. That's a really involved topic. For lack of anything else to read in English, I once read an interview with Tara Parker-Tomkinson where she admitted that, contrary to what most of us had thought, she wasn't really posh at all, because the real posh people -- the ones whose money had been in the family for more than three generations -- knew she was just a noworisz (as they say here in Poland -- that's 'nouveau riche', by the way -- I certainly wouldn't have guessed).
And there's a lot more than just money involved. When I was growing up, the other kids sometimes took the p**s out of me for 'talking posh' -- we all came from the same housing estate, but I spoke with a much less identifiably local accent because my parents weren't local. It's incredible how much your accent is a part of you. I'd feel as wierd putting on the heavy Estuary accent that some of my schoolfriends used to have as putting on the 'posh' accent they sometimes accused me of having. For me, the 'r's aren't really a problem, as no-one in Essex pronounces them. It's the 'ch' that I put at the beginning of 'Tuesday' but shouldn't (in RP terms) and the 'v' that I don't put in the middle of 'brother' but should (in Estuary English terms).
Would an examiner really penalise a student for not pretending to read, or is it just the kids' paranoia? I had flute lessons years ago, but my sense of rhythm was much too bad for me to have to worry about anything like turning the pages at the right time -- playing the notes at the right time seemed like a much more pressing problem.
Recumbentman Posted May 13, 2003
Estuary English -- now there's a fertile field of study. The fascinating thing is that there is probably more variation of accent within England than in spoken English in the rest of the world. This is analogous to the fact that DNA studies have revealed: there is more genetic difference within Africa, where we all came from originally, than there is outside Africa (many times more).
About the music exams -- "Would an examiner really penalise a student for not pretending to read, or is it just the kids' paranoia?"
I've been a music examiner, and it is entirely the teachers' paranoia. Examiners love people playing by memory, if only because it's a lot more fluent.
There can be few professions whose members are more isolated and paranoid than music teaching. How's the language teaching out in Poland? You can hear good Irish traditional music there, Polish people have taken to it big time (if you like diddley-eye). Dust off your flute and join in -- an entirely different way to learn!
Daniel Allington Posted May 20, 2003
Irish music really does seem to have made it big over here. Thanks for the suggestion about joining in, but I really couldn't keep up! I had a go at some Polish Xmas carols this year on my guitar, and that's about as much as my 'ear' is up to. Actually, everything Irish is popular here, even Riverdance... I think the Poles identify with the political history of Ireland to a great extent (partitions, foreign occupation, etc).
An interesting point about variations of English within England! I never knew that. (Although I had noticed that the differences between many supposedly distinct American accents were pretty minimal compared to, say, the way my granny, a Yorkshirewoman, speaks, and the way my sister does.)
Teaching English in Poland is fun as long as you're not preparing 17-year-olds for their matura (school-leaving) exam. The country's pretty obsessed with exams (perhaps because of the 20% unemployment rate), which means that most students seem to be preparing for some kind of exam or other. The Cambridge exams are the most popular ones for fairly advanced students, and they're all right to teach for because you can read fun articles in class and discuss them, since the text-based bits of the exams are mostly based on real articles.
Which brings me back to the subject of RP, because some of the students here try WAY too hard to produce an RP accent. The worst symptom is having really flat, boring intonation because of concentrating so hard on saying 'shewer' for 'sure'. But I never have the heart to tell them to stop, because it's obvious they've invested so much effort in it.
One day, there'll probably be a standard accent for International English, with all the difficult sounds (like 'th') taken out. And then the rest of the world will be telling the English to speak clearly.
Recumbentman Posted May 20, 2003
"One day, there'll probably be a standard accent for International English, with all the difficult sounds (like 'th') taken out. And then the rest of the world will be telling the English to speak clearly."
That is so true! It is such a waste of time concentrating on accent when there is so much to do for comprehension! Antoine de Caunes is a Frenchman that presents an English TV show, and he has made a point of pronouncing English exactly as written, to his French eyes. Took some getting used to but . . . the show has been running for years! I have no trouble with most spoken English, the ones I find hardest are some Nigerian versions, where English is if not the first language at least a well-known one. Again, after a while I could tune in. Actually the hardest person for me to follow was a reality TV show contestant called Jade (who is I fink Estuary? or near it). My daughter had to translate for me.
Daniel Allington Posted May 27, 2003
Yeah, A fink we can caw Jade an Eshchury speaka.
Perhaps somebody should produce a Guide entry on a new system of pronunciation to assist in world communication. Much to my regret, I've never seen 'Makbed blong Willum Sekspia', Ken Cambell's (universally incomprehensible?) Pidgin-inspired version of Macbeth.
Recumbentman Posted May 27, 2003
Mat Posted Sep 12, 2008
German RP is supposed to be spoken in Hannover. Definitely not Hamburg!
Recumbentman Posted Sep 16, 2008
Grand -- thanks for that!
It appears I was wrong about JFK too. He was (I have it on good authority from native German speakers) perfectly within his rights to say "Ich bin ein Berliner". Someone took it up as a mistake and put the story around that he should have said "Ich bin Berliner". That would have been equally, but not more, correct.
When you listen to the recording of JFK in Berlin, there is laughter from the crowd at that point. This however arose from JFK thanking his translator, who called out everything he said in German after he spoke each phrase.
JFK: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
Translator: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
JFK: "Thank you!"
Mat Posted Sep 16, 2008
Mat Posted Sep 16, 2008
Actually it would have been funnier if he had made the speach in Hamburg.
Key: Complain about this post
- 1: Cap'n BK (Jan 15, 2003)
- 2: Recumbentman (Jan 18, 2003)
- 3: Flying Betty- Now with added nickname tag! (Jan 30, 2003)
- 4: Daniel Allington (May 12, 2003)
- 5: Recumbentman (May 12, 2003)
- 6: Daniel Allington (May 13, 2003)
- 7: Recumbentman (May 13, 2003)
- 8: Daniel Allington (May 20, 2003)
- 9: Recumbentman (May 20, 2003)
- 10: Daniel Allington (May 27, 2003)
- 11: Recumbentman (May 27, 2003)
- 12: Mat (Sep 12, 2008)
- 13: Recumbentman (Sep 16, 2008)
- 14: Mat (Sep 16, 2008)
- 15: Mat (Sep 16, 2008)