reflect on theory in this module.
research it – main theories and approaches.
apply one or more theories by applying a small scale empirical study.
reflect on the theory of the approach for the analysis of data.
3 000 to 4 000 words
15 per cent description of theories
15 per cent identification of key studies.
30 per cent application of concepts to the study
20 per cent evaluation of framework .> theories and concepts > to study
IT WILL BE CHECKED BY PLAGIARISM SOFTWARE SO DELETE OFF BLOG
Giddens defined class as, ”the structured inequality between groups. ” Professor Joan O’Sullivan stated in Unit 3 lesson 1 that class is definitely related to language variation. Labov stated that social stratification can be determined through self-definition. One of the speakers I have listened to for this study defined himself as middle class – Christopher Hitchens. Meyerhoff noted that the status of a class can be determined by the frequency with which a variant is used. Haute bourgeois speakers as we shall see use the prestige cariant more often.
I have chosen to investigate the non-rhotic nature of Received Pronunciation. RP is the accent most closely associated with the British upper class. Received Pronunciation is know by various other names. These include the Home Counties accent, a public school accent, the Queen’s English, Oxford English, Standard British English, Southern British English and so forth. It is called Received Pronunciation because the word received was understood to mean ”correct” in the 1920s in the same manner as the expression ”received wisdom.”
The term Home Counties derives from the fact that this accent is more commonly found in the Home Counties. These are the counties immediately adjacent to London. These are Berkshire, Surrey, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Buckinghamshire. Likewise this accent ifs often heard in London. In fact this accent is estimated to have been used by only 3 per cent of the populace of the United Kingdom in the 1970s. In London and the Home Counties it was more common than that. However, even there it was a minority accent. Most Londoners and most people in the counties immediately around London most people spoke with a Cockney accent.
The term ”the Queen’s English” derives from this being the accent of Her Britannic Majesty. When there was a king in the United Kingdom the accent was of course called ”the King’s English.” Those who spent time at the royal court picked up this accent and the lexis that accompanies it. There were certain grammatical features such as snob plurals saying ”two lion” rather than ”two lions.”
This accent was sometimes called Southern British English since it was more commonly spoken in southern England particularly south-east England.
This accent is sometimes called Standard British English because it is the prestige version. It is most widely understood in the UK an abroad. Some people have difficulty comprehending pronounced regional accents. Americans sometimes struggle with certain British regional accents such as Geordie. However, they often say that they have no trouble understanding Standard British English. It is heard in broadcasting, the law, academic and being spoken by army officers. It was the voice of authority. That authority has diminished over the decades. On television in the United Kingdom it has been acceptable for newsreaders and the like to speak with mild regional accents.
Oxford English is a term used for RP because it was the accent that most Oxford University undergraduates had until a few decades ago. Oxford is a metonym for higher education in the UK and the university is more famous than the city in which it lies. Most Oxford undergraduates until the 1960s came from upper class or upper middle classes homes. Wherever they originated they tended to speak in RP. Oxford was closely associated with the notion of proper English since the Oxford English Dictionary was and is one of the most authoritative books on definition and pronunciation.
Public school accent is another term for RP. This is because people who attended public schools usually spoke this way. A public school is in fact a private school. It is called public because it is open to the public if they can pay. It is public in that it is a charity and not run for private profit.
This accent was sometimes called the BBC accent. That is because when the British Broadcasting Corporation was found in 1922 all its announcers and newsreaders were required to speak in RP. This helped to cement RP as the most exalted accent and to ensure that it was more widely understood than ever. The BBC relaxed this policy in the 80s and it has been dropped altogether.
A language ideology is a way that a certain language is imbued with a particular cultural signification for a community. These are socially constructed for the most part. This is according to Cameron’s work in 2003. These are germane to the chosen variant.
Bishop and Coupland (2007) would say that one can do some very simple field work by asking people what they think of various accents. The variant I have picked is one that is indubitably associated with a certain social class and not so much a geographical region. It is a accent which rates highly for status but low for solidarity. This can be seen in the work of Coupland and Bishop.
There is consensus on the stereotypes associated with certain speaking styles. Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillenbam (1960) did some groundbreaking work on this. They proved that it is variety and not voice that people respond to. This was proved through the matched guise technique. There is no doubt that code choice makes a huge difference to the impression one creates on one’s hearers.
Non-rhotic means not pronouncing the r unless it is word initial. The r in George sounds like a w. The word hard sounds like it has a long a in the middle. Therefore I am listening out for a phonological variant.
What is fascinating about this variant is its anomalous status. It is part of the Standard British accent but not Standard American. A non-rhotic variant seems to be wrong according to almost every other accent in the Anglosphere. How can dropping a certain letter be considered correct?
Description of the data –
The data is taken from various RP speakers. The are demonstrating their non-rhotic accent.
Why did I chose this variant?
Because it is a social marker. It determiners that a speaker us using the RP code. This feature has been iconised as being part of the identity of a certain social class. Irvine and Gal in their article of the year 2000 noted that iconisation os part of a language ideology becoming established – it is the first stage. It is a shibboleth. It is iconic of this group of speakers and represents them. It is arbitrary but it is perceived as identifying the group. Bell in 2014 made the same point about a feature distinguishing one group from others.
There is an element of recursion here. This is also showing in Irvine and Gal as a second stage in language ideology being established. Messing did further work on this. The less one used the rhotic sound the more upper class one is. There is also erasure in relation to the non-rhotic accent. A non-rhotic accent is not unique to RP. The Bostonian accent is also non-rhotic. This does not fit with how the British upper class see themselves so the non-uniqueness of the non-rhotic accent is overlooked since it does not suit the langage ideology.
The origin and history of the variant with reference to the literature –
This marker has been around since the late eighteenth century. This is when John Walker published his English Pronouncing Dictionary in the 1770s. In it John Walker stated the intention was to enable the newly enriched English middle class to distinguish themselves from the Irish Scots and the working class English. A craze for elocution lessons started. The bourgeoisie wished to affirm their status and avoid lapsing back into the proletariat. Prior to that the variant is unclear.
One possibility is that it was an attempt to distance oneself from the French. The British upper class in the Middle Ages had not so distant French origins. Indeed they spoke French into the 14th century. In French the /r/ sound is pronounced very strongly. Therefore by adopting a non rhotic accent people were clearly differentiating themselves from their Gallic cousins.
As Giles and others wrote there may be upward divergence. That is when people – particularly the middle class – seek to differentiate themselves from others. Therefore they start to speak differently. They wish to assert that they are a cut above the rest. Adopting a non-rhotic accent as a means of announcing social arrival. It was declaratory of embourgeoisment. This is about aspiring to a higher social class as Professor Joan O’Sullivan adumbrated in one of her lectures. This is about doing identity work. These people accentuate their accent. They wish to distinguish themselves from their working class interlocutors. This reinforced their identity.
This was an example of accommodation. Giles and Fraser found in 1979 that accommodation was usually used to gain approval but it can be for other purposes such as to intimidate. The adoption of a non-rhotic accent was a way for the rising middle class to try to gain acceptance from the gentry.
Similarity attraction theory indicates why people accommodate to certain accents. People are attracted to those who are similar to them in attitude and accent.
Social exchange process can also explain convergence. The reward of accommodating to the speaker is less than the cost so people do it.
This style has fixed boundaries. This was a case of enregisterment as Coupland would call it. Aseed Agha invented the term enregisterment. This speech style has a social meaning and is recognised in the cultural context. As Coupland said about enregisterment it ”gives speech style the impression of being fixed and known social objects.”
Style ranges from casual to careful as Labov said. The non-rhotic variant can be found in both but it depends on whether it is natural for some people. Some force themselves to use it and only do so in a careful style.
What does the variant mark? Is it a class marker? Is it a gender marker? A regional marker or an age marker?
This is a class marker. It is more popular in southern England but it is found all over the United Kingdom among the upper class. The upper class are more heavily concentrated in London and the Home Counties. This variant is disliked in some parts of the UK such as Tyneside and Glasgow. It is regarded as conceited and false. To some degree it was a marker associated with the white British. However, as non-white Britons are assimilated and undergo embourgeoisement they too start to speak in RP. It is not an ethnic marker. Ethnicity was defined by Bell as ” a group sharing socio-cultural characteristics ”.
It is not really a gender marker. However, it is probably more common among women. This is because women tend to use prestige variants more often than males as was noted by Labov in 2001. Meyerhoff wrote in 2011 that women make a greater effort to do this because they are usually more sensitive to language. Trudgill noted that in Occidental society men are judged by their occupation and women more by appearance and speech. Eckhart claimed that women use symbolic resources more than men do in order to signal belonging to a group or indeed opposition to a group.
Is it a stable marker or an indicator?
It is a stable marker. It has been around for over a century and show little sign of being about to disappear. It was spread through the BBC and imperialism. There was language shift when this variant became more commonplace through the twentieth century. As Professor Joan O’Sullivan observed in Unit 1 Lesson 1 language shift can occur due to economic reasons. People started to adopt a non-rhotic accent since it improved their job prospects.
There was a slight shift away from the variant about ten years ago but people have shifted back to it. This is called down shifting where people turn their backs on a prestige variant and adopt the variant common in a vernacular accent. Those who turned away from it are now in their 30s. This is like Eckhart’s model of stages of language variation.
Does it have overt or covert prestige?
It has overt prestige because RP is the prestige accent as would be defined as Meyerhoff. It has connotation of being the code of the state bearing people. Some consider a rhotic accent in the UK to have covert prestige. Some RP speakers have downshifted and adopted a Mockney or Jafaican accent. This is downward convergence towards a non-Standard accent may also be due to demographic factors. More Afro-Caribbean immigration to the United Kingdom brought influences form the Antilles to bear. People from upper middle class households were felt to be effete. Using a rhotic accent gave them street cred.
The status of this prestige is non-Standard. This is unusual in that the over prestige variant is non-Standard. Most Anglophones speak with a rhotic accent.
Are there any indexical values associated with this marker?
Does it contribute to the enregisterment of this variety?
Yes, it does. This style has an indexical value. The social characteristics are part of the speaker’s identity. A speech feature points to a cluster of social attributes. RP hints at being educated. Individual speech features are not socially meaningful in their own right as Coupland noted. You will notice this later when you hear David Crystal. He illustrates this. It is similar to Coupland’s study of travel agents in Cardiff. It was meaningful in this case when David Crystal was motivated to shift his style wen speaking to the students about a certain topic and downshifting to his normal accent later.
Support your example with transcriptions of speech.
Examples of RP can be found below. There may be an element of audience design in the way these people speak. As Alan Bell said the speakers may be speaking in a way they think they audience will like. They are conscious of the status of the audience the speakers’ style is responsive. Bell found this in relation to New Zealand radio broadcasts in 1984.
Christopher Hitchens is speaking to an audience in the United States of America. This might alter his pronunciation. He might be over egging his accent as it plays well in the United States.
Christopher Hitchens begins by saying –
”Thank you for that fantastically generous introduction, Can I first ask all those who are volunteers to start moving and block all the exits please. Um You know who you are. There are stewards and marshalls waiting for you. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends you probably thought that you had already paid to come here. I know I have not drawn the most popular straw in being the one between you and Noam and the question and answer session but the fact is we at covert action quarterly are quite old hands and we are not allowed to get a captive audience get away that lightly. Um we would like you to make a pledge ,if you can, and we will be passing buckets and baskets around for you to put in money or cheques or I owe yous or any other kind of paper currency. I don’t know for example. If I can just start the ball rolling here. How many people would pit their hands up and admit they pay for the home delivery of the Washington Post? That is quite a lot. I do it too. I reckon what? 250 doll for that a year to have a great wodge of consensus dumped on your doorstep. …”
Notice how the letter ‘R’ is not pronounced by him when it is usually word by him unless it is word initial or preceded by a consonant.
David Crystal speaks with a northern English version of RP. This man is delivering a lecture on behalf of the British Council. He may be on display mode. The speech is possibly stylised. Crystal changes styles through the speech. At one time he speaks in a hyper lective style and speaking in his mild northern accent at another stage. There as ingroup referee design at one stage. He was ‘talking posh’ when he intensified his usual speech pattern when he was speaking about the 18th century attempt to acquire an upper class accent. That was the linguistic code and identity was granted greater prestige. This was away from the speech style of his audience who are not native Anglophones. The man himself is a native speaker of English.
Cystal is proving Coupland’s point that style is a verb not a noun. The man is styling himself through his manner of speech. Crystal drew on his understanding of social difference ti make social meaning and explore identity. He was fulfilling his agentive role. His style changed according to the situation.
Here is a transcription of some of his words.
” Yes absolutely and class. Class? Class. Class. Yes absolutely. It is implicit in a lot of what we said and when you actually ask ‘ Why was it that RP developed in the first place?’ It is entirely a matter of a class accent that evolved quite consciously remember…. ”
Below two young women in London speak in RP. They are being filmed but it seems that they are not feeling self-conscious as they are relaxing at a café – drinking and smoking. The observer paradox does not seem to be severe here. They are in Chelsea which is one of the most upper class areas of London. Therefore to speak RP there would not be at all unusual. It might be that they are using such variants to fit in with those around them. I have only transcribed the first person to speak.
Here is a transcription of the first minute.
” No. Ok and then takes the other side. That’s what they do. That’ s what they do. Tell me you get this . Did I not explain it? It is so clear. This is the defender. Well that’s what they do but obviously they have to move a bit they can’t always . Just try, just try. Do you want me to go through it again? I know it is so thrilling for you. It is so thrilling. The last defender is here. His teammates are like these two and they are all at the back. Here is the last defender …. ”