Wednesday, 15 September 2010

'RP' - whence? No. 3 (John Walker)

John Walker is much more well-kenned than Duponceau about whom I wrote in my previous blog. Walker occasionally employs the epithet received when discussing various types of English accent. He does so in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language (= CPD) of 1791; other uses of received can be found in Walker's A Key to the Pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names (1804, 2nd and later editions) (= KP).

In his musings on the pronunciation of the name Andronicus in Shakespeare's tragedy Titus Andronicus, Walker writes that Shakespeare "followed the received English pronunciation of his time" (KP 1798:80).

In the article accompanying the head word Palmyra Walker states: "Those, however, must be pedantic coxcombs who should attempt to disturb the received pronunciation when in English, [...]" KP 1798: 86). He rejects stressing the antepenultimate in the English pronunciation of the word.

In his opus magnum CPD Walker on page viii tries to characterise what is "most generally received" by referring a) to being "learned and polite" and b) to a quantitative criterion (= "bulk of speakers").

The next text passage is probably the most frequently cited one. In it Walker describes the area within which pronunciation is "more generally received" (p. xiii).

Finally I should like to quote from p.12, where Walker talks about the pronunciation of the letter <a>. In later editions of the CPD there's no comma between "received" and "pronunciation".

Like Duponceau Walker does not to intend to set up a definitory label; however, he does not simply posit the concept but tries to propose some characteristic features (polite, learned, bulk of speakers) - however vague they may be.

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