Monday, 27 February 2012

what's it called? (with updates)

This blog entry will be revised!
What is the standard accent or norm accent or reference accent or model accent of England called? Well, the term that first and foremost comes to mind is RP or Received Pronunciation. But there are others (together with some updates as suggested by blog followers) such as

name abbrev. used by
BBC pronunciation --- Peter Roach1
Educated Southern English ESE Gerhard Leitner2
English Standard Pronunciation E.S.P John L. M. Trim3
General British pronunciation GB Jack Windsor Lewis4
Modern Received Pronunciation MRP Patricia D. Scott Ashby5
Public School Pronunciation PSP Daniel Jones6
Non-Regional Pronunciation NRP Beverley S. Collins7
Received Standard --- Henry Cecil Wyld8
Reference Pronunciation RP David Rosewarne9
Standard British English SBE Ken R Lodge10
Southern British English --- Kenyon & Knott11
Southern British English --- Alfred C. Gimson12
Southern British Standard SBE John C. Wells & Greta Colson13
Southern England Standard Pronunciation SESP Paul Tench14
Standard Pronunciation StP Daniel Jones15
Standard Southern British English SSBE Rachael-Anne Knight16
Received Pronunciation RP Alan Cruttenden17(and others)
Traditional Received Pronunciation Trad RP Peter Trudgill18
U pronunciation --- Alan S. C. Ross19

This list is by no means complete. I deliberately left out denominations like Queen's English or Oxford English. The burning question (well, at least for some; for others it's a tiring one) is why some authors opine that RP is an inappropriate label and therefore fancy another term. This'll be pursued in another blog entry.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

1Roach, P. (2009), English Phonetics and Phonology, (London etc.), p. 3
2Leitner, G. (1982): "The Consolidation of 'Educated Southern English' as a Model in the Early 20th Century", IRAL 10, p. 93
3Trim, J.L.M. (1961): "English Standard Pronunciation", ELT Journal XVI (1), p. 28, 34
4Windsor Lewis, J. (1972), A Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of British and American English, (London), p. xiv
5Ashby, P. (2011), Understanding Phonetics, (London), p. 4
6Jones, D. (1917), An English Pronouncing Dictionary, (London)
7Collins, B., Mees, I.M. (20082), Practical Phonetics and Phonology, (London, New York), p. 4
8Wyld, H.C. (1914), A Short History of English, (London), p. 17
9Rosewarne, D. (1984): "The term RP", JIPA 14, p. 91
10Lodge, K. (2009), A Critical Introduction to Phonetics, (London, New York), p. 71
11Kenyon, J.S., Knott, Th.A. (1944), A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, (Springfield, Mass.), p. v
12Gimson, A. (1970), An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, (London), p. 85
13Wells, J.C., Colson G. (1971), Practical Phonetics, (London), p. 6
14Tench, P. (2011), Transcribing the Sound of English, (Cambridge etc.), p. 4
15Jones, D. (1909), The Pronunciation of English, (Cambridge), p. v
16Knight, R.-A. (2012), Phonetics, (Cambridge etc.), p. 9
17Cruttenden, A. (2008), Gimson's Pronunciation of English, (London), p. 77
18Trudgill, P. (2002): "The sociolinguistics of modern RP", in Trudgill, P., ed., Sociolinguistic variation and change, (Edinburgh), p. 171-180
19Ross, A.S.C. (1970), How to Pronounce It, (London), p. 11


  1. This topic is discussed on my website
    at Blogs 114 and 148 etc.

  2. No mention of Wells and Colson's Southern British Standard (SBS)?

  3. Southern British English - Gimson 1962, recognising that there was something else alongside RP.

    Southern isn't perhaps so well chosen, head towards the west and you start finding rhotic accents. The area is roughly the home counties. The local regional typology is the full vowel shift but non-rhotic. Like all regional accents it's socially stratified, so RP is one sociolect among the others (irrespective of where RP speakers happen to live). I'm still happy with D Jones definition of RP - the speech of the major public schools (in his day), and the acquired RP of those who adjusted to it. I'm not happy with suggestions that there's a new RP. If RP is dwindling and something else growing, so be it. R.I.P.

    The pressure to adapt to RP was enormous a few generations ago. But it must have been uneven because our corner of Kent escaped it. There weren't many RP speakers around, mainly the officers at the garrison and RN barracks, and locals hardly ever met them. So by the time I moved out into the wide world it was too late. I was just aware that some doctors, some vicars, most officers and most tory MPs didn't speak like us (or vice versa). I was 25 and already teaching English as a foreign language before I saw my first copy of Jones' Outline, and learned that officer-speak had a name, RP. And also found myself in tiny footnotes at the bottom of his pages.

    So please don't forget Gimson.

    1. @SW:
      1) Thanks for reminding me of Gimson's Southern British English. I don't have the 1st ed. to hand. In the 2nd ed. he (still?) mentions Southern British English on p. 85, but the term RP is the prevailing expression throughout the rest of the book.
      2) Thanks for adding my blog to your blogroll.

  4. Daniel Jones varied what he called his accent. In his very earliest works he called it Standard Pronunciation. He said in the earliest editions of his Outline of English Phonetics that he thaut it "necessary to set up a standard of pronunciation" but he stopt using that term in 1917 in favour of Public School Pronunciation and finally formally settled on Received Pronuncation in 1926. However, subsequently in the Outline by 1956 he also used half a dozen times the essentially synonymous terms Educated Southern English (§§407,663,879), Received English (§662fn), Southern pronunciation, (Appendix A §44) and Southern English (Appendix A §49).
    →Sidney Wood Where were the tiny footnotes?

    1. @JWL: Thanks to your deliberations I'm aware of the multitude of Jones's designations. DJ deserves a separate treatment.

    2. JWL: Sorry, that was 50 years ago! I've no idea today which edition I saw then. Now I have the 1967 revision of the ninth. One possible place is §335a which might be a former footnote. The edition info notes alterations at every printing from 1956 on.

  5. It's referred to as Trad RP in P.Trudgill (2002) The sociolinguistics of modern RP. In P. Trudgill (ed.), Sociolinguistic variation and change, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.