U-RP

Josh Lalonde   Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:14 pm GMT
RP seems to be declining in prestige somewhat in England (you don't have to speak it to work for the BBC nowadays), but there used to be an accent that was even more prestigious than regular RP. How much does it still occur? Do the Royal Family use it?
Here are some features that I associate with U-RP (there may be others, and not all speakers need to have all of them):

No happy-tensing
No horse-hoarse merger
No intrusive r
Back realisations of FOOT and GOOSE
Low realisation of THOUGHT
CLOTH with vowel of THOUGHT
High realisation of TRAP
Back realisation of STRUT
Intervocalic /r/ as [4]
Lazar   Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:40 pm GMT
I think another characteristic associated with U-RP is smoothing:

tire ["t_ha@], ["t_ha:], ["t_hA:]
tower ["t_hA@], ["t_hA:]
mower ["m3@], ["m3:]
layer ["lE@]

(Of course, smoothing of /aI@/ and /aU@/ occurs for many English people today; and smoothing in /i:@/ words like "idea" is very widespread - I think predominant - in England today.)

Another characteristic may be pronouncing /aU/ with a backed onset: [AU], which contrasts with the trend in modern Southern England to have a more fronted onset, like [{U].

And we could include the stereotypical fronted pronunciation of /o:/ as [EU]. I've read about a joke in England that goes like this: "Say 'air'. Then say 'hair'. Then say 'lair'. Then put them all together: 'air hair lair'. It's an aristocratic greeting!"
Liz   Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:02 pm GMT
You are absolutely right in thinking that U-RP is losing prestige. To be more precise, it has already lost itīs prestige. (However, prestige is not the best word - Iīd rather say popularity.) Nowadays you can hear a wide range of English accents and dialects on the BBC as well. The announcers donīt need to speak cut glass RP any more, fortunately. But, on the other hand, the BBC comes into criticism for employing people "who cannot even speak English properly", which is of course far from being true. Those who frown upon them are mostly upper-class people of the older generation.

As opposed to them, I donīt have anything against announcers having (traces of) a regional dialect unless they lapse into unintelligibility. And I donīt think they do. Besides, I think, ordinary people prefer listening to announcers who speak like they do. I donīt know if you have ever encountered the name of Brian Sewell. He is an acknowledged and probably the most famous British art critic. He is really a knowledgable old bloke, but his accent is so unreal. He speaks with an extremely excrutiating ulra-mega-posh U-RP accent. I have read an interview with him in which he talked about his experiences concerning his accent. He says that even in his early childhood he was asked whether he had taken elocution lessons before. The poor guy didnīt even know what elocution lessons were at the age of...6, 7 or 8, maybe! Later, a few years ago, he came across a man who was talking to his acquintance on the phone, and said "Here is Brian Sewell and he does talk like that in real life!" The poor thing still canīt understand why he is getting quizzical looks all the time when he opens his mouth.

As far as the Royal Family is concerned, the older generation does speak U-RP. However, the Queenīs accent has changed reasonably in the past few years. Younger members of the Royal Family tend to speak Estuary or RP with traces of Estuary. Just think of Prince William, Harry or Zara Philips.

Do you mean "linking R" by intervocalic R? If so, this is not specifically U-RP. It is found in other non-rhotic dialects of English as well.

To me, the most conspicuous and weird feature of U-RP is that "happy" is pronounced as "heppy". (Sorry for being rather unscientific here, but I donīt have an IPA font installed, and my knowledge of X-SAMPA is shaky.) Some decades ago, there was (and still is) a tendency with RP speakers to realise the "a" in words like "happy" as a very open vowel, just like the way northerners (I mean Brits, not Americans) pronounce it. The reason for that might have been the fact that "heppy" is prevalent in Cockney, and upper-class people wanted to distance themselves from such a low-class variety.
Lazar   Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:45 pm GMT
<<Do you mean "linking R" by intervocalic R?>>

No, he meant any /r/ which is between vowels, like in "merry". What he was saying is that U-RP, intervocalic /r/ tended to be pronounced as a tap consonant, like the Spanish "r" in "pero".
Liz   Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:48 pm GMT
<<No, he meant any /r/ which is between vowels, like in "merry". What he was saying is that U-RP, intervocalic /r/ tended to be pronounced as a tap consonant, like the Spanish "r" in "pero".>>

Oh, thank you. I see. Well, Iīm not sure about that but I suppose so.
Liz   Fri Mar 16, 2007 8:57 pm GMT
Oh, I`ve forgotten the links (if you heaven`t heard him speak yet):

Brian Sewell is taking the mick in a pub:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bauz34toJ1g

I havenīt listened to it, because I donīt have an audio device at the moment:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3G618-hxgA&mode=related&search=
Damian in Edinburgh   Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:28 pm GMT
Apparently Helen Mirren had to undergo a certain amount of coaching in the adaption of her normal way of speaking so that it more resembled the way the Queen speaks for her portrayal of the Queen in the eponymous film. Whether it was a case of accent or just some sort of voice modulation I'm not quite sure, but it's just something I read a wee while back.

The Queen herself is about 20 years old than Helen Mirren, and has undergone a lot of voice training herself to avoid sounding shrill and sort of strangulated in the extremely posh upper class voice and English English accent of her earlier years. That's the way people of her class and status spoke in England many years ago (just listen to those old films and radio recordings and you will hear it) and if the Queen still spoke like that today the overwhelming majority of British people, even in the South of England, would find it unbearably excructiating to listen to. That would include her many grandchildren, that's for sure.

It would also have made it even more difficult for Helen Mirren to sound like her as well as look reasonably like her on the big screen. She really deserved her Oscar. Helen Mirren originally comes from Leigh on Sea, in Essex......literally on the north shore of the Thames Estuary, next to Southend on Sea, where Estuaryspeak truly reigns supreme.
Josh Lalonde   Sat Mar 17, 2007 3:56 am GMT
I was watching the new BBC version of Dracula last week and I was thinking about the accents. They were all very posh, certainly not Estuary, but I don't think they were accurate to the period. They probably should have been closer to U-RP, though that would have been harder for the actors, and more annoying to listen to. I find it funny though that in American films, anything foreign (ie. when the characters would be speaking to each other in another language throughout the film) is automatically in RP. Also, the "bad guys" in action movies speak in RP a lot of the time.
It shows a lot about how Britain has changed in the last fifty years that the Queen has to take elocution lessons to bring her accent down the social scale. Pre-WWII, the idea would have been unthinkable.
I'm curious Damian; Scottish Standard English is approximately equivalent to RP in terms of socal status/prestige, right? Is there an equivalent to U-RP in Scotland?
Uriel   Sat Mar 17, 2007 3:57 am GMT
I'm so glad Liz explained what "happy-tensing" meant, because you should have seen MY initial mental image! ;P
Gabriel   Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:18 am GMT
<<I'm so glad Liz explained what "happy-tensing" meant>>

If that refers to this comment:

<<To me, the most conspicuous and weird feature of U-RP is that "happy" is pronounced as "heppy".>>

Then that is not what is commonly referred to as HAPPY tensing. HAPPY tensing involves the realization of the final vowel in HAPPY as [i] (corresponding to the American vowel in "see") rather than traditional RP [I]. What Liz described is what Josh meant by "high realization of TRAP".
Josh Lalonde   Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:31 am GMT
<<Then that is not what is commonly referred to as HAPPY tensing. HAPPY tensing involves the realization of the final vowel in HAPPY as [i] (corresponding to the American vowel in "see") rather than traditional RP [I]. What Liz described is what Josh meant by "high realization of TRAP".>>

Yes, that's what I meant. Incidentally, how common is happy-tensing in England? The OED lists these words with 'i' ie. somewhere between [I] and [i:]. I've read that some people pronounce it with the quality of [i] but short like [I]; does anyone pronounce it long?
Liz   Sat Mar 17, 2007 11:34 am GMT
<<Then that is not what is commonly referred to as HAPPY tensing. HAPPY tensing involves the realization of the final vowel in HAPPY as [i] (corresponding to the American vowel in "see") rather than traditional RP [I]. What Liz described is what Josh meant by "high realization of TRAP".>>

Exactly.
Damian in Edinburgh   Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:05 pm GMT
***I'm curious Damian; Scottish Standard English is approximately equivalent to RP in terms of socal status/prestige, right? Is there an equivalent to U-RP in Scotland?***

It does exist in a way in Scotland but in a very different way from the situation down in England. It's inevitable that class/social status/prestige exists in various forms in almost every society - it does in America, for instance, the self proclaimed land of equality, although many Americans would be loathe to admit it.

The issue of accent as a sign of social status in Scotland is less pronounced here than it is in England (especially Southern England) but even there it is changing to a more general "downsizing" of U-RP to RP which in turn is slowly merging with Estuary, as has been indicated in previous posts.

Standard Scottish English is about as generally accepted as the "norm" in much the same was as Standard English English RP is in much of England, again especially away from the North. In Scotland, the accent of this area, Edinburgh, is regard very much as SSE - it is the capital city after all, and the main tourist attraction in Scotland.

As far as U-RP in Scotland is concerned, most people automatically think of the Morningside version of the Edinburgh accent.......affected and refined to say the least, but there again - much rarer than it used to be, apparently.

A perfect example of the Morningside U-RP accent of Edinburgh was demonstrated by the English actress Maggie Smith in her part of Miss Jean Brodie in the Edinburgfh based film "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie". She was spot on in all her intonations, but the truth is very few people, even in Morningside - a "posh" suburb of this city - speak that way any more - except some really old ladies out lunching together.
Uriel   Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:51 pm GMT
<<<<To me, the most conspicuous and weird feature of U-RP is that "happy" is pronounced as "heppy".>>

Then that is not what is commonly referred to as HAPPY tensing. HAPPY tensing involves the realization of the final vowel in HAPPY as [i] (corresponding to the American vowel in "see") rather than traditional RP [I]. What Liz described is what Josh meant by "high realization of TRAP". >>

Either way, it wasn't what I was thinking! ;)
Rick Johnson   Sat Mar 17, 2007 9:28 pm GMT
<<HAPPY tensing involves the realization of the final vowel in HAPPY as [i] (corresponding to the American vowel in "see") rather than traditional RP [I]. What Liz described is what Josh meant by "high realization of TRAP".>>

This is an odd one because the short (I) is quite common in Manchester, but I can't say that it's something I've really ever heard in Southern speech. All Southerners that I'm aware say "happee".

<<The reason for that might have been the fact that "heppy" is prevalent in Cockney, and upper-class people wanted to distance themselves from such a low-class variety.>>

Yes, that may be true! Can't say that I'd thought of that before. Having said that, however, they still use the long a - 'a:' as in ba:th, which is also a feature of cockney.