Accents: Upper-crust RP (U-RP)

Received Pronunciation is not a monolith. The most traditional part of the RP accent is the so-called “Upper Crust”. As it is highlighted by J. C. Wells, the relationship between the varieties of U-RP: conservative and advanced one, is mainly chronological. The first one mentioned – “conservative” – is spoken by older generation and sounding decidedly old-fashioned. It is the speech of the royal family (J. C. Wells called it: “the accent associated with a dowager duchess”), and is very similar to the pre-war language of the British films and BBC broadcasting of those times (Wells 1992, 280). Even now, older members of the royal family will say [ha?s] for [h?us] house, [sendst] for [sændh?:st] Sandhurst,[p?:l?s] for [pau?l?s] powerless, [r?fe?nd] for [r?’fa?nd] refined, as well as [?:f] for [?f] off or [’lendske?p] for landscape. What is more, in words like: fragmentary, temporarily or formidable, the stress falls on the 1st syllable. In Great Britain it is accepted that the queen sounds like her pre-war ancestors and as a result, there is some “distance” between common people and the royal family. Nevertheless, there are voices criticizing such an “affected” accent (Graddol 1996, 261).
            Much more popular, although still exclusive, is advanced RP. This type is used primarily by upper class young people and in some professional circles. Despite some elements of temporary fashion, the pronunciation of advanced RP shows not only the way in which the whole accent will develop, but also the future of general RP. According to A. C. Gimson, the best example of such a process can be “the originally advanced ‘affected’ diphthong in home, involving increased centralisation and a tendency towards monophthongisation, which seems likely to become general in a very short time” (Gimson 1992, 88).
            U-RP as a whole (conservative and advanced together) is definitely upper-class. As J. C. Wells claims, it is more less the same accent as so called Oxford English, yet the second term may seem a bit vague. The U-RP has got several characteristic features that are easy to notice. The vowel /æ/ is realised as [?æ] or [eæ]. For instance when we want to say that man, we should pronounce [‘ð?æt ‘m?æn]. The younger generation of U-RP speakers tend to use more open and fashionable [a]. It is a novelty in the accent and not everybody accepts it. Two other sounds: /?/ (like in: strut) and /?:/ (palm or bath)are back. The same happens with /u:/ (like in: goose). Diphthongs /??, ??, ??/ (like in: near, square and cure) are centred and have more open second element. What is more, in the word nurse, the vowel is, just like previous ones, more open than it normally is, and is pronounced as [n?:s]. These are the most basic characteristic features of U-RP (Wells 1992, 281).


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