British accents: NRP and Estuary English

Modern British Non-Regional Pronunciation (NRP)
British Non-Regional Pronunciation has been created in the late 20th century. While traditional RP is associated with upper class or upper-middle-class, NRP is (just like General American) much more democratic and free from class divisions. Yet, this is still a standard, which excludes using other accents that are present all around the world, such as Australian English, Scottish English or Hiberno-English. The main characteristic feature of NRP that can differentiate it from the “old” RP is no contrast between /??/ and /?:/. That is why words like oar and ore are homophones. Moreover, NRP tends to lose centering diphthongs: /??/ (like in near) and /??/ (like in cure). NRP replaces them by /i?/ and /?:/. The latter mentioned sound is often used in words like: sure, poor and your. The other change takes place in words: jewel and fewer. Here, instead of /??/, NRP-speakers use /u:?/. The last main change takes place in square. While Received Pronunciation uses the sound /e?/, NRP has changed it into /?:/ (Collins 2008, 200).
New London Voice
Estuary English (or a “cockneyfied RP”) is claimed to be the greatest competitor for RP. It is used by many young adults, who live in London, and who have higher education. It is more less the same group as RP-speakers, that is why New London Voice is so “dangerous” for the future position and existence of Received Pronunciation. EE is a ‘mid way’ between the upper-class RP and the lower-class Cockney, from which it uses the sound /w/ for word-medial and final /l/. The feature can be heard in words like real and always, but not in little, where /l/ is the first sound. What is more, EE uses /d/ and fronts /t/ in words like: Gatwick, seatbelt, gateway or little. The next accent’s feature is loss of a sound /j/ (“yod-dropping”) in news or tune (Stockwell 2002, 40).
            An important fact is that Estuary English has not “fossilised” yet. It means that its speakers will sometimes use the RP variant, and sometimes will prefer to pronounce the Cockney one. Code-shifting from one variant to another one is very common if only the speaker is aware of their usage. Thanks to classless roots of New London Voice, it has spread recently and is now used not only in London, but also in the vast majority of the United Kingdom. It shows the great Cockney influence on RP. Peter Stockwell claims that is very possible for Estuary English to become in the future the new Received Pronunciation. It would show how huge is the impact of a lower-class Cockney on RP (Stockwell 2002, 40).


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