Standard English pronunciation and regional varieties of pronunciation.
The Southern British type of English pronunciation, the Northern regional type of English pronunciation, the Scottish regional type of English pronunciation. The American variant of the English language: the Eastern type, the Southern type, the General American type.
At present there may be distinguished the following types of cultivated English – large regional types, as distinct from local dialects.
In the British Isles there are such types: 1) Southern English pronunciation, or RP; 2) Northern English pronunciation, 3) Standard Scottish Pronunciation, 4) Irish English pronunciation. Beyond the British Isles the following large regional types are distinguished: 1) American English, 2) Canadian English, 3) Australian English.
1. The Southern English Pronunciation (RP)
The Southern British type of English pronunciation is variously known also as Standard English Pronunciation, Received English Pronunciation (RP), and Public School Pronunciation.
For reasons of politics, commerce and the presence of the court the pronunciation of the south-east of England, and more particularly that of the London region began to acquire in the 16th century an exceptional social prestige in England. In time it lost some of the local characteristics of London speech. It may be said to have been finally fixed, as the speech of the educated, through the stabilising influence of the public schools of the 19th century. Hence the name Public School Pronunciation. Since such public schools existed in all parts of the country and prepared their pupils for the universities, this type of pronunciation was soon disseminated throughout the country and began to be recognised as characteristic not so much of a region as of a social stratum. With the spread of education, the situation arose in which those dialect-speaking schoolchildren and university students who were eager for social advancement felt obliged to modify their accent in the direction of the social standard and acquire this type of pronunciation. Hence the term Received Pronunciation (RP), introduced by D.Jones.
Until recently, RP English was widely believed to be more educated than other accents and was referred to as the King's (or Queen's) English, or even "BBC English" (due to the fact that in the early years of broadcasting it was very rare to hear any other dialects on the BBC). The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) adopted this form of pronunciation for its announcers mainly because it is the type which is the most widely understood and which excites least prejudice of a regional kind. However, for several decades, regional accents have been more widely accepted and are frequently heard.
The special position occupied by RP has led to its being the form of pronunciation most commonly described in books on the phonetics of British English and traditionally taught to foreigners.
2. The Northern English Pronunciation
Northern English is the speech of those born and brought up in the region between Birmingham and the border of Scotland. This type of pronunciation is not to be sharply separated from the South English type since it contains some features of the latter, modified by the local speech habits. The distinctive feature is the use of vowels. There are several accent features which are common to most of the accents of northern England. The most marked differences in the distribution of vowels are as follows:
1) [a] for RP [æ] in words like bad [bad], man [man];
2) [æ] or [a] for [ɑ:] in words like glass [glæs, glas], ask [æsk, ask], dance [dæns, dans], i.e. in which the letter ‘a’ is followed by a word-final consonant or by two consonants other than r.
3) [ʊ] for [Λ] in words like cup [kʊp], love [lʊv], much [mʊt∫]; so put and putt are homophonous as /pʊt/. But some words with /ʊ/ in RP can have /u:/ in Northern accents, so that a pair like luck and look may be distinguished as /lʊk/ and /lu:k/.
4) [e:] or [ε:] for [eɪ] in words like may [me:, mε:], take [te:k, tε:k].
5) [o:] for [əʊ] as in goat [go:t], boat [bo:t].
6) In many areas, the letter ‘y’ at the end of words as in happy or city is pronounced [ɪ], like the ‘i’ in bit, and not [i].
Yorkshire and Lancashire accents are rather peculiar with their own specificity in pronunciation of words, which differs greatly from the RP.
Northern English as a whole represents the earlier type of London English that was the standard speech in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. This type was carried to America. That is why there are many features in common between American and Northern English accents. At the same time people from the North are generally more likely to use old-fashioned phrases, and less likely to use American phrases.
3. Standard English of Scotland
Standard English of Scotland is considerably modified by Southern British, but some of its features go back independently to the Northumbrian dialect of the Anglo-Saxon tongue. The most important differences are as follows:
1) It is a rhotic accent with ‘r’ still pronounced before consonants or silence. It may be [r] (an alveolar trill of the Russian type), though more commonly an alveolar tap [ɾ] and especially post-alveolar approximant [ɹ], depending on the phonological context, as in more [mor], born [born];
2) Dark [ł] is used in all positions as in look [łυk]; though in areas where Gaelic was recently spoken—including Dumfries and Galloway—a clear /l/ may be found.
3) The non-existent in RP back-lingual (velar) fricative similar to the Russian /x/ is used in words like loch [lɒx] – озеро, caught [kɒxt]. The phoneme /x/ is also still common in names and in SSE's many Gaelic and Scots borrowings, so much so that it is often taught to incomers, particularly for "ch" in loch. Some Scottish speakers use it in words of Greek origin as well, such as technical, patriarch, etc.
4) The medio-lingual (palatal) [ç] is used in words like light [liçt].
5) The differentiation between "w" in witch and "wh" in which, [w] and [ʍ] respectively survives. The phoneme [ʍ] is pronounced as a cluster [hw] used in words with the initial digraph wh, as in which [hwit∫].
6) [a] is used instead of [æ] in words like bad [bad], man [man].
7) [æ] is used instead of [ɑ:] in words like glass [glæs], ask [æsk], dance [dæns], after [´æftər], path [pæθ]. Cat and cart are differentiated as allophones, but are not phonemes, so that Sam and psalm are homophonous.
8) Monophthongs followed by [r] are pronounced instead of the centring diphthongs, e.g. here [hır], beard [bırd], there, their [ðe:r] or [ ðεr], bear, bare [be:r] or [bεr], pure [pjur], sure [∫u:r], poor [pu:r]. SSE contrasts [o:r] and [u:r], as in shore and pour vs. sure and poor.
9) SSE usually distinguishes between [ɛ]-[ɪ]-[ʌ] before [r] in herd-bird-curd, in RP these have merged into [ɜː].
10) SSE pronounces both cot and caught [ɔ].
11) [u] is used for [aʊ] as in house [hus], powder ['pudər].
13) [a:e] for RP [aɪ] as in five [fa:ev], size [sa:ez].
14) [əɪ] for RP [ɔɪ] as in avoid [ə'vəɪt] (“evite”), join [ʤəɪn] (“jyne”).
15) [e] for RP [əʊ] as in soap [sep] (saip), both [beθ] (baith), home [hem] (hame).
16) Fool and full have [u] or [ʉ] or [y] in SSE where RP differentiates.
17) Vowel length is a crucial aspect of the accent. It most clearly affects /i/, /u/ and /ae/. Predictable short vowel duration gives many Scottish accents a distinctive "clipped" pronunciation before nasals, e.g. spoon [spun] and voiced stops, especially /d/, e.g. brood /brud/. Vowel length is nearly phonemic in SSE because when open syllable verbs are suffixed they remain long, thus vowel length clearly distinguishes e.g. crude vs. crewed, need vs. kneed, and side vs. sighed.
18) Scottish intonation also differs considerably from RP intonation, but it has been investigated very little.
* The following may occur in colloquial speech, usually among the young, especially males. They are not usually regarded as part of SSE, their origin being in Scots:
4. The American variant of the English language
In many ways, compared to British English, American English is conservative in its phonology. The overall impressions of AE pronunciation may be summed up as follows:
1) AE intonation does not rise or fall as much as that of BE, i.e. there is somewhat less modulation of the voice and, consequently, AE sounds more monotonous.
2) American voices generally have a higher pitch than British ones. In BE high pitch is usually a sign of emphasis, but this is not necessarily so in AE. As a result, to British ears AE often seems unduly emphatic. Another cause contributing to the same effect is that American voices tend to be louder than those of British speakers, especially in casual conversations.
3) American pronunciation is usually more nasalized.
4) The tempo of American speech is rather slower than that of British speech. Consequently, English people tend to speak of the American drawl and Americans often refer to the clipped speech of the English.
5) In general, American pronunciation tends to follow spelling more closely than does British pronunciation, and there are fewer silent consonants. Thus, the loss of ‘d’ in kindness, of ‘t’ in often, is common in British but rare in American pronunciation. The so-called spelling pronunciations are also more common in the US than in Britain: Berkeley [´bərklɪ] (BE [´bɑ:klɪ], Ralph [rælf] (BE [reɪf].
Attention should be drawn to the more numerous assimilated pronunciations that occur in colloquial AE. Many of these pronunciations have been reflected in spelling in forms such as didya = did you, ain’tcha =ain’t you = aren’t you, gimme = give me, gonna = going to, toleja = told you, etc.
In the United States there may be distinguished three main types of cultivated speech: 1) the Eastern type, 2) the Southern type, and 3) the General American type.
The Eastern type
The Eastern type is spoken along the east coast of New England and largely in New York City. This type of American pronunciation bears a close resemblance to the Southern English type.
Dialects in North America are most distinctive on the East Coast of the continent partly because these areas were in contact with England, and imitated prestigious varieties of British English at a time when those varieties were undergoing changes, and partly merely because many speech communities on the East Coast have existed in their present locations longer than others. The interior of the country was settled by people who were not closely connected to England, as they had no access to the ocean during a time when journeys to Britain were always by sea. As such, the inland speech is much more homogeneous than the East Coast speech and did not imitate the changes in speech from England.
There are, however, some differences between the Eastern American type and RP:
One of these is the use of a more advanced allophone of the /ɑ:/-phoneme than in RP: a vowel sound intermediate between [æ] and [ɑ:] and similar to the nucleus of the RP diphthong [aʊ], e.g. ask [ask], dance [dans].
The Southern type
The Southern type is used in the south and south-east of the United States. Its most striking distinctive feature is the so-called Southern drawl, which is a specific way of pronouncing vowels, consisting in the diphthongization and even triphthongization of some simple vowels and monophthongization of some diphthongs at the expence of prolonging (“drawling”) their nuclei and dropping the glides. Thus, that may be pronounced [ðæjət], this – [ðıjəs], cute – [kjuət], yes – [jeıəs], fine – [fɑ:n], high – [hɑ:].
The features of the Southern American English:
1) The merger of [ɛ] and [ɪ] before nasal consonants, so that pen and pin are pronounced the same. his sound change has spread beyond the South in recent decades and is now quite widespread in the Midwest and West as well.
2) The diphthong /aɪ/ becomes monophthongized to [a:]. Some speakers exhibit this feature at the ends of words and before voiced consonants but Canadian-style raising before voiceless consonants, so that ride is [ra:d] and wide is [wa:d], but right is [rəɪt] and white is [wəɪt]; others monophthongize /aɪ/ in all contexts.
3) The Southern Drawl, or the diphthongization or triphthongization of the traditional short front vowels as in the words pat, pet, and pit: these develop a glide up from their original starting position to [j], and then in some cases back down to schwa: /æ/ → [æjə], /ɛ/ → [ɛjə], /ɪ/ → [ɪjə].
4) Lax and tense vowels often merge before /l/, making pairs like feel / fill and fail / fell homophones for speakers in some areas of the South. Some speakers may distinguish between the two sets of words by reversing the normal vowel sound, e.g., feel in SAE may sound like fill, and vice versa.
5) /z/ becomes [d] before /n/, for example [wʌdn̩t] wasn't, [bɪdnɪs] business, but hasn't is sometimes still pronounced [hæzənt] because there already exists a word hadn't pronounced [hædənt].
6) Many nouns are stressed on the first syllable that would be stressed on the second syllable in other accents. These include police, cement, Detroit, Thanksgiving, insurance, behind, display, recycle, and TV.
7) In some regions of the south, there is a merger of [ɔr] and [ɑr], making cord and card, for and far, form and farm etc. homonyms.
8) /i/ is replaced with /ɛ/ at the end of a word, so that furry is pronounced as /fɝrɛ/ ("furreh")
9) The ‘l’ in the words walk and talk are occasionally pronounced, causing the words talk and walk to be pronounced /wɑlk/ and /tɑlk/ by some southerners.
The General American type
The General American type includes the Middle Atlantic area of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as all of the Middle and Far West. The peculiarities of this type may be summed up as follows:
1) GA [æ:] instead of RP [ɑ:] in some words containing the letter a followed by ss, st, th, sk, nt: class, last, bath, flask, plant;
2) GA [ɑ:] instead of RP [ɒ], e.g. in log, dog, often, etc.
3) yod-dropping (i.e. omission of the semi-consonant [j]) in stressed syllables after alveolar consonants, e.g. in due [du:], produce [pro´du:s], stupid [´stu:pid].
4) GA uses the retroflex [ɹ] characteristic also of Irish English and the British West Country dialects. GA is a rhotic variant of English, or r-full, i.e. the r is sounded in all words where this letter occurs, e.g. farmer, earth, bird, etc.
5) In GA the forelingual plosive [t] is voiced in an intervocalic position. Thus, to the British ear there is practically no difference in the following pairs of words: atom – Adam, waiting – wading, writer – rider. This is usually defined as the flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] before reduced vowels. The words ladder and latter are mostly or entirely homophonous, though distinguished by some speakers by a lengthened vowel preceding an underlying 'd'. For some speakers, the merger is incomplete and 't' before a reduced vowel is sometimes not tapped following [eɪ] or [ɪ] when it represents underlying 't'; thus greater and grader are distinguished. Even among those words where /t/ and /d/ are flapped, words that would otherwise be homophonous are, for some speakers, distinguished if the flapping is immediately preceded by the diphthongs /ɑɪ/ or /ɑʊ/; these speakers tend to pronounce writer with [əɪ] and rider with [ɑɪ].
6) The lateral consonant [l] is usually pronounced as “dark l” in those positions where it is “clear” in General British: little [łitł], believe [bɪ’łi:v].
7) The merge of cot [ɒ] and caught [ɔ:] to [ɑ]: [kɑt].
8) The replacement of the lot vowel [ɒ] with the strut vowel [ʌ] in most utterances of the words was, of, from, what, everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody, because, and in some dialects want.
9) The merger of [ʊɹ] and [ɝ] after palatals in some words, so that cure, pure, mature and sure rhyme with fir in some speech registers for some speakers.
10) Laxing of /e/, /i/ and /u/ to /ɛ/, /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ before /ɹ/, causing pronunciations like [pɛɹ], [pɪɹ] and [pjʊɹ] for pair, peer and pure.
There are also some other sets of words and individual words that are generally pronounced in a different way in American English and British English. Thus, AE prefers a short [i] in the lightly-stressed second syllable of words like missile, futile, whereas BE has the diphthong [aɪ]. The following are some other characteristic AE pronunciation: schedule [´skedju:l], tomato [tə´meɪtəu], lieutenant [lu:´tenənt], vase [veɪs].
1. /American local dialects..docx
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