|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a model of British English has been so diluted by the admission of the notion of Regional RPs that it should be wholly superseded by regional standards as targets for the foreign learner.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.
I wonder if you've noticed that Gimson agreed to take over the conversion of the transcriptions of the third edition of OUP's Advanced Learner's Dictionary to his own set of symbols that had been so generally welcomed and accepted in the EFL world in 1977. He began the work jointly with his close colleague at UCL Dr Susan Ramsaran but their collaboration was sadly cut short by his sudden death in 1985. She continued the work alone and, when the dictionary's fourth edition finally appeared in 1989, at page 1547 the foll·wing appeared:ReplyDelete
A British pronunciation is given for each word...The British English form is that which has been called Received Pronunciation (RP) or General British".
So we presumably have a posthumous endorsement by Gimson of the term General British.
Something similar to the above has appeared in successive editions of the book the latest being as follows:
"The British pronunciations given are those of younger speakers of General British. This includes RP (Received Pronunciation) and a range of similar accents which are not strongly regional". Page R45.
The current Phonetics Editor of the dictionary is Michael Ashby of UCL.
Whatever misgivings there may be about the term "Received Pronunciation (RP)" it at least does not, to my mind, suffer from the huge disadvantage presented by "General British (GB)" as a label: namely, the false impression (created by the very use of that word "general") that it represents some kind of description of how MOST British people pronounce English.ReplyDelete
RP, of course, is not (and never has been) the variety of spoken English used by the majority of native British speakers. It was, however -- and remains to a much larger extent than many are today happy to allow -- the pronunciation variety with the highest prestige, as a result both of its inculcation by the Public Schools as the "language of authority and command" and of its near universal use by the BBC for more than half a century as the "language of public communication".
"Received" was such a useful term precisely because it meant not "general" but "accepted" (however resentfully in many circumstances). The partial decline latterly in the sway of the traditional centres of authority and command and the broadening-out of the sources of public communication have not, however, lead to the "general" acceptance of some new, quasi-universal standard. Indeed, the very reverse is true, in my view: there are now far MORE, and noticeably distinct, varieties of British-English in relatively high-profile use nationwide.
That, of course, doesn't answer the question: what variety of BrE pronunciation should be taught? It may well be that some form of weak "Estuary-ese" is the answer arrived at. But (pace the OUP Advanced Learner's Dictionary) there are no "similar [to RP] accents which are NOT strongly regional" (my addition and emphasis) to anyone outside the southeastern corner of England. The term "General British" is therefore, in my view, very poorly chosen. The south east of England is indeed highly populated and contains a large number of "centres of cultural diffusion". Nevertheless its speech patterns remain strongly regional in character to those British-English speakers who inhabit the geographically much greater part of Britain; therfore, something like South-Eastern British English would be far more appropriate a term.
Reply to Kevin
I've been int·rested to read Kevin's rather extravagant comments on GB "as a label". It's a bit of a rant but I propose to ans·er it for the benefit of Kraut's other readers. Kevin, who discloses nothing directly about himself, seems to be wildly underrating the intelligence of the average reasonably educated person in suggesting that "General" creates a "false impression" thru being interpreted as referring to the speech actually used by a numerical majority of the UK population.
What GB is, is a variety of UK English that practically every British person knows quite or almost as well as they know their personal or local variety. It's readily and completely understood by practic·ly all people of any intelligence thruout the land, thanks mainly no dou·t to the broadcast media. The opinion that in completely unmixt form (an entity it's no simple matter to identify with differences of opinion existing among even specialist observers) it's only spoken by fewer than ten per cent of us is something I wou·dnt wish to begin to discuss because I regard it as too totally trivial and pointless a topic. The same goes also for Kevin's assertion that there are "now far MORE, and noticeably distinct, varieties of British-English in relatively high-profile use nationwide". Perfectly true but quite irrelevant to a discussion of the term GB. Kevin also sez "(pace the OUP Advanced Learner's Dictionary) there are no "similar [to RP] accents which are NOT strongly regional ([Kevin's] addition and emphasis) to anyone outside the southeastern corner of England".
He is here quoting Michael Ashby the highly respected Phonetics Editor of recent editions of the ALD with whom I completely agree when he sez in the current edition at page R45: "The British pronunciations given are those of younger speakers of General British ... and a range of similar accents which are not strongly regional". I hear plenty of speakers ev·ry day from whom I detect clear tho not strong regionalisms but who I'm perfec·ly sure the gen·ral public dont usually perceive as anything other than GB speakers. As to his comment "there are now far MORE, and noticeably distinct, varieties of British-English in relatively high-profile use nationwide" . I'm perfec·ly happy to agree but once again I dont see its relevance to his objections to GB. Kevin concludes, again irrelevantly, with an aside facetiously asking "What variety of BrE pronunciation should be taught? It may well be that some form of weak "Estuary-ese", before returning to the topic with "something like South-Eastern British English would be far more appropriate a term" One of the troubles with the expression 'South-Eastern British English' instead of GB is that, tho it's likely that it's the area where GB speakers are thickest on the ground, there are still very large numbers elsewhere in the UK along with huge numbers of speakers whose speech is so close in most respects to GB that the differences, even if noticeable, are simply trivial.
And what about the changes from the diphthong /eə/ to /ɛ:/ and /æ/ to /a/? Will everyone adopt this now?ReplyDelete