What are other prestige accents in the UK besides RP?

zxczxc87   Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:10 pm GMT
Estuary English is NOT prestigious. It's just prevalent. No American accent is deemed prestigious here; if you hear an American speak you'll just think that he's a foreigner. It's the same as for any foreign accent. With regards to the New York accent, in my mind at least, it varies between pretentiousness and the notion of a fat, greasy, cab driver.

I doubt that Indian accents are particularly prestige... they irritate the fuck out of me when they cold-call you. I think probably the most prestigious for telemarketing and what-not is a subtle Irish or Scottish one. That said, in general life RP is still the most prestigious, but most people are self-aware of being overtly posh and so avoid it.
Damian in London E16   Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:17 pm GMT
Och....this whole topic is very contentious!

Hello, Nightingale.....cool handle btw!

As far as the UK is concerned, I don't think the word "prestige" is really an appropriate word to use when applied to accents/dialects. I've never heard of it being used in this way, unless you meant it in the way of social status, which could have been achieved by several means - including inheritance, or "accident of birth" etc. All that is very outdated, and "snobbish"type RP has gone down the pan big time.....hardly anyone speaks that way now, and if they do they must be pretty long in the tooth.

It's a wee difficult for me, as a Scot, to give you a clear picture of this whole accents business in the UK as it's not anything like as big an issue back home in Scotland as it appears to be down here in England. I'm talking about the whole gamut of British accents now and not the multiplicity of other accents currently heard over much of the country these days. One thing's for sure: you're never far away from a Polish accent practically anywhere in the UK now.

Instead of "prestige" I would use "favour" when it comes to the whole range of British accents. Some regional accents are more highly favoured than others here, as we've discussed before in this Forum loads of times. People from areas where the local accents are not so highly regarded may well have been forced to modulate them for whatever reason, mostly because of employment. It's not unusual to have people speaking differently at work from the way they do at home or at leisure. As a Scot who uses quite a few local Scots expressions at home or with my mates, I can say I don't use them at work or not very often in here. Certainly I wouldn't use them at work down here in London under normal circumstances, unless I want to take the piss out of someone or chat with the fair number of other Scots working here (it's a Scottish paper anyway so it's not a problem).

I'm surrounded by standard RP here - it's more or less called Home Counties, as practically everyone working in this huge recently developed commercial/business/leisure/residential complex in East London (Canary Wharf/Docklands) commutes into London from a very wide area. People work alongside each other during the day but at night live anything up to 120 miles apart, so you'd think that accents would be myriad in a country where accents change in a matter of just a few miles. Strangely, the general overall accent is a form of RP English English, with varying touches of Estuary maybe, especially from the younger elements. Some distinct touches of Cockney, strains of Essex, occasional bits of East Anglia....from all over SE England I reckon. Central London is like one huge magnet sucking in people from all around the Home counties (ie counties which border onto Greater London) and further afield every working day.

Where I work fortunately the majority of people are from the younger age groups so "posh RP" is non existent, thank goodness. Of course there are loads of other regional UK accents here and there (in addition to non-UK accents which abound but we're talking UK accents here are we no?)

No one accent is regarded as being more "prestigious" than any other. As long as people are articulate and speak clearly and effectively, and are able to communicate in an educated and businesslike way, then that's all that matters. In an environment such as this one, there's just no time (or patience) for any delays or misunderstandings.

Fortunately I come from a part of the UK where the local accent is highly "favoured". Forty odd miles away another local accent is not so popular, and when a lot of call centres were based there prior to transfer to Asia, people from all around the UK complained in their droves because they just couldn't understand what the operators were saying.

Other cities where they would not consider locating such call centres would be Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle (just by way of example) simply because of the unpopularity of the local accents.

Standard RP English English, non-Cockney/non-Estuary London English, Home Counties English, general non-E Southern England English, many Scottish accents (not Glasgow!), Irish accents, some of the softer Welsh accents, are all considered to be pleasant to listen to.

Snobbish accents and/or attitudes are now very much disliked, even in Southern England. Nobody under the age of about 40 or so would dream of "sounding posh". It's possible to talk in a pleasant RP English English without "sounding posh". It's nearly always the old(er) people who "talk posh" from what I can make out since being down here in the Great Metrollops. As I say, I'm only a Scot, and this accents "thing" seems to be very much an English issue.

Apart from "posh" old ladies in the Morningside district of Edinburgh, nobody in Scotland gets all that wound up over accents anyway. Except when English accents are heard on Saturday nights in the streets of Edinburgh after a Scot/Eng international at Murrayfield....then the Auld Enemy complex comes to the fore! :-)

Time to go "home" now! Cheers!
Deborah   Thu Aug 10, 2006 1:58 am GMT
Damian - What do people think of the Oxford accent? You provided a link to some site with a few samples of accents, and I liked the one that was labeled "Oxford", but the speaker was a young boy. I'd always thought that an Oxford accent was supposed to sound posh, but the kid didn't sound posh at all.
Nightingale   Thu Aug 10, 2006 2:11 am GMT
Thanks a lot for your commentary, Damian!!! That pretty much cleared up everything for me. Yes, I suppose the correct word should be "favoured" and not really "prestigious".

You wrote: "Fortunately I come from a part of the UK where the local accent is highly 'favoured'. Forty odd miles away another local accent is not so popular, and when a lot of call centres were based there prior to transfer to Asia, people from all around the UK complained in their droves because they just couldn't understand what the operators were saying."

HAHA... I take that to be favoured Edinburgh versus not-so-popular Geordie? Or is it Glasgow?

By the way, I happen to come from a country where the official "standard accent" isn't too popular and can land you with quite a bit of negative discrimination in certain parts. (Standard Mandarin/Putonghua is based on the Northern dialect. At present, Southern China is more prosperous, and the people here tend to look down on northerners. Too bad >.<)
Damian in Lonon E16   Thu Aug 10, 2006 7:46 am GMT

In 2003 my Scottish cousin married an English girl who came from just outside Oxford - a pretty wee place called Wallingford, right on the river Thames (or Isis as the Thames is called at Oxford). I went to the wedding along with the rest of my family, and everybody down there, including the bride herself and her family, spoke a form of nondescript RP....neither "posh" nor "estuary" - just.....normal Southern English English, if you can get what I'm saying....basic Home Counties, although Oxfordshire is just outside the HC area as Oxford itself is 52 miles west of London. Like Cambridge (the other traditional uni city) is 52 miles north of London....strange that!

Anyway, I've heard of the "Oxford accent" and looking it up I see it described as: "Oxford English - that form of received pronunciation of English supposed to be typical of Oxford University and regarded by many as affected and pretentious". The actual truth is - OE just doesn't exist. Oxford is now as multicultural as any other UK city - probably more so being a world famous uni city with students from all over the world let alone the UK. There is no "Oxford accent" now, if there ever was in the first place - probably there was in the days when it drew all its students and lecturing staff from a certain social class in ENGLAND particularly. In those days only well off people of the time could afford to send its youth to college there and I reckon they all spoke "uppity English", which then gave rise to the term "Oxford English".

Go round Oxford city now and you'll hear a multiplicity of accents (and languages!). As for the indigenous English English population of Oxford they either speak like my cousin's wife's family, more or less, or with varying forms of Estuary...it depends on various factors, including age groups. Estuary affected RP is confined to people under 30/35 or so, and the older people may have touches of the former rural-type burr accent of the area, almost verging on West Country.

The UK seems to be getting more multi cultural anyway, and Oxford has its share of immigrants, with accents from all over, including Eastern European which is the current "fashion". It must be, as many supermarkets are now starting to have signs in Polish in their stores!

Nightingale: Aye - I was referring to Glasgow! We're always taking the pi$$ out of each other, and aye!...their local accent is dreich! :-)
Liz   Fri Aug 11, 2006 8:22 am GMT
<<Estuary English is NOT prestigious. It's just prevalent.>>

Yes, thanks for correcting me.

I'd rather say "trendy". And it's prevalent in the media. It's sort of becoming a fashion now, and many people with a higher social status and originally "posh" accent try to adopt it.

I used the word "prestigeous" because it is halfway between stigma and prestige, and it's becoming widely accepted. One day it might become THE prestige accent. I hope not.
Ben   Fri Aug 11, 2006 9:35 am GMT
Damian, on the whole I agree with you about the denizens of Oxford not having a particularly distinctive accent. I must say, though, that I have noticed a certain kind of "plummy", super-crisp Queen's English kind of accent spoken by certain older Oxford don types and even a few of their (undoubtedly public-school educated) students. I guess a good example would be the way that David Attenborough talks. Although perhaps some would say that this accent is indistinguishable from ordinary RP English.

Also, as an American who just spent the last year at Oxford, I can definitely say that Standard American is NOT a prestige accent! Many times I had the distinct impression that others around me were downgrading their mental estimate of my intelligence whenever I opened my mouth -- not because of what I was saying, but because of the way I said it. In this, as in many other matters, I can only blame American tourists. I hope Euros realize that tourists are not a reliable measure of a country's worth!
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HG   Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:14 pm GMT
***Standard American accent is considered prestigious in the UK also, American influence in Britain is quite big and the British neologisms are Americanisms. Also the New York accent is considered prestigious in Britain***

In most Western European countries, school curricula hold BBC English (i.e. the Queen's accent) as standard. It is obviously the norm in France!
I, for myself, had been given rotten marks at university for using GenAm as a norm (language, pronunciation and grammar) after a four months stay in California. Why? Because college professors ar emostly purist hardliners and don't want to adapt to a new system...

On the other hand, GenAm like most American dialects, is changing, and so are the English dialects of the British Isles. I guess you have heard of Californian vowel shift or Northern vs. Soutnerh Cities shift in the US and Canada? What about the glotalisation of RP ? A relevant feature from the Estuary English?

Of course, the American accent prevails in business, but Western Europeans are advised to use a BBC accent as the UK still remains the norm and the "client"... Plus, look up any word in a dictionary, the pronunciation is mostly RP, the Received Pronunciation. You get chances galore to be understood wherever you go...

Besides, where can you find the best BBC accent? London? Nope, Dublin city center...
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