|A. C. Gimson|
The first and second editions first appeared in 1962 and 1970 respectively. They comprised eleven chapters. Ch. 11 bears the title "The Word in Connected Speech" and deals, among other things, with weak forms, elision, liaison. With the appearance of the 3rd edition a twelfth chapter of about 27 pages length was added: "Teaching the Pronunciation of English". Inter alia Gimson writes about the "Choice of Models of Pronunciation". Homing in on the foreign learner and the choice of a basic model for him he points out that RP should be regarded as an evolving mode of pronunciation. Due to the fact that there has been a "considerable dilution in the original concept of the RP speaker" 302), Gimson advises the foreign learner to strive for the "educated speech of the South East of England" (302). And then he makes an almost 'heretical' remark:
"It can of course be claimed that the traditional concept of RP suffers such dilution as a result of the tolerances suggested that a new label should be applied to the model. 'General British' (GB) has been used1 and may supersede the abbreviation RP." (303)But then, the thought of giving up RP as a label seemed to have been too daring to him, so he (hastily) adds this sentence: "But so widespread in Britain and abroad is the use of the term RP that it is retained in this discussion." (303) ... Phew! Escaped by the skin of his teeth!
This 'heresy' was repeated in the fourth edition (1989:316), when Susan Ramsaran (/ˈrɑːmsərən/) had become responsible and even in the fifth edition (1994:272) for which Alan Cruttenden had taken over the baton. But it got a different twist in the sixth edition of 2001:
"It might [no longer "can"] be claimed that RP as a model of British English has been so diluted by the admission of the notion of Regional RPs that it should be wholly superseded by regional standards as targets for the foreign learner. Thus London Regional RP (= 'Estuary English' [...]) has been claimed by some to be an emerging new standard among British speakers and hence a model towards which foreign learners should aspire, [...]." (298)Now, this train of thoughts forks off in a totally new direction. Cruttenden, nonetheless, clings to the concept/term of RP throughout the rest of his book.
In its 7th edition of 2008 RP is still considered to be the "principal option for those aiming at a British pronunciation" (317), although Cruttenden mentions other, more or less fuzzy, concepts such as International English and Amalgam English.
I wonder if there's a new edition 'in the pipeline' as the saying goes. Let's see if Crutty will make any major changes as regards RP as a model and/or term on which his book will be based. And what will the term RP be superseded by?
1Gimson mentions Jack Windsor Lewis, who uses this term in his Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of British and American English of 1972.