Is the purest English only spoken in Southeastern England?

Gabriel   Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:19 pm GMT
Great post, Damian. Whether "pure" is supposed to mean "free from pollutants" or "used by upper class folk", RP no longer meets either definition.

In IPA, the examples you use to illustrate the difference between RP and Estuary English would be:

RP ["dO:t6]
EE ["dO:?6]
GA ["dO4@`] ["dA4@`]

MATTER /m{t@/
RP ["mat6]
EE ["ma?6]
GA ["m{4@`]

As for Tottenham, I think you're right to say that even in traditional RP, the [t] before [n=] is sometimes realized as a glottal stop. The same applies to "button" and "cotton".
Damian in Edinburgh   Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:34 pm GMT
***Does this mean that Estuary is the new and upcoming standard form of English?***

Most unlikely - in fact, not likely at all. There's no way that the general broadcasting media - (in England - this is very much an English situation) - will adopt Estuary as the "norm" for it's announcers who do most of the newsreading, continuity and general announcing, and all that kind of stuff. Estuary is still seen mainly as the "standard speech pattern" for the younger people, and in spite of what I said in another post about the steady demolition of class consciousness in England over recent decades, Estuary is still more widely used in people from less professional, less well educated, less affluent backgrounds - as a rule. That isn't to say that younger people from those backgrounds don't adapt to a certain amount of Estuary at certain times - they do.

Standard English English RP has become more modified in recent decades in the sense that it is no longer anything like the "posh upper class affected" speech of the more "privileged" Southern England of 40/50/60 or more years ago. It has just become more - well, standard, basic, middle of the road, middle class, nondescript type of speech of most people who do not have distinct regional accents. Most of the British actors you see in films or on TV have this "standard" type accent, unless of course they are playing parts requiring ertain regional accents or dialects.

If you listen to all those audio links in that BBC Voices website, involving speech recordings from all over the UK - the ones from England - especially the Midlands and the South, but not exclusively - then you will hear this current standard RP being spoken by people from all age groups. You will hear some Estuary in some of those links, but as I say, it depends on the people being recorded and their social background and circumstances.

Recordings from Scotland and Wales cannot be included in all this - they are generally separate in this issue, although we do have some elements of "Estuary" of our some people.
Damian in Edinburgh   Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:44 pm GMT
If any of you have been listening to Prince Harry telling the world how happy he has been "doing his own thing" in Afghanistan before this foreign website blew the gasket on the whole affair and was responsible for him being forced to return home here for obvious reasons, you will notice that he speaks in this basic standard non affected English English RP, quite unlike people of his class and status in times past would have spoken. In fact, not at all like his granny, the Queen - who still has this rather "posh" accent of her generational class background.

Harry talks no differently from millions of other people of his age group right across England. A clear indication of this RP "modification" I was talking about.

Have a guid weekend.

To everyone in Wales - Hwyl fawr am Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant! Happy St David's Day! 01 March.
Amabo   Sat Mar 01, 2008 2:45 am GMT
"Is the purest English only spoken in the Southeast of England?"


Next question, please.
a native   Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:14 pm GMT
I've tried to strike a happy medium between my roots and how I'd like to be perceived in the world (given where I was raised, I should really be speaking Pitmatic). I have something of an informal RP which I struggled to teach myself as a child, although if the company is very close, like my immediate family, I might lapse into the regional dialect and pronunciation. I think my RP is somewhat implacable and only vaguely "northern."
Earle   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:57 am GMT
"Purest English" is an interesting concept. That's all...
Amabo   Wed Mar 05, 2008 12:14 pm GMT
"'Purest English' is an interesting concept. That's all..."

And a dumb concept too.
Travis   Wed Mar 05, 2008 4:17 pm GMT
>>I've tried to strike a happy medium between my roots and how I'd like to be perceived in the world (given where I was raised, I should really be speaking Pitmatic). I have something of an informal RP which I struggled to teach myself as a child, although if the company is very close, like my immediate family, I might lapse into the regional dialect and pronunciation. I think my RP is somewhat implacable and only vaguely "northern."<<

That is the opposite of matters here with younger people in Wisconsin with the dialect here, forming the low register outside of AAVE-speaking populations, being what is normally spoken in everyday life, while the high register, which are essentially Upper Midwestern variants upon General American, being generally limited in use to specifically formal social situations. Rather than the low register being "lapsed into" it is the high register which is deliberately switched to on a temporary basis for most younger people. (However, amongst middle-aged people here, there seems to be more influence from social class with respect to such, with middle class and upper class using the high register far more and more generalized use of the low register being more associated with the working class here.)
AJC   Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:20 pm GMT
I don't think native is indicitative of the situation in North East England. Although RP does exist, were you to meet someone there speaking it, your best guess would be that they were an immigrant to the area.
Travis   Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:30 pm GMT
I myself was not quite sure to what extent the dialects present in northeast England have been marginalized in favor of RP and Estuary; that is, if they were akin to Oïl languages other than French in northern France and Low German in northern Germany, where they are heavily marginalized, or if they were more akin to non-standard NAE dialects in North America or Alemannic and Austro-Bavarian dialects in southern Germany, where they are not really marginalized that much if at all. So I am to gather that they really are surviving relatively well these days, rather than being displaced outside the home and the pub by RP and Estuary?
AJC   Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:59 pm GMT
I'd want to distinguish accent from dialect in general there. There is some estuary-style glottal replacement but that is fairly rare. I can't think of anything else except for the loss of the Northumberland [R] but that's more levelling towards a general Northeastern accent than influence of the south.

Other aspects of dialect *are* being more and more marginalised. But they're being replaced by a more standard English in a Northeast accent rather than by an RP/Estuary form. I recently heard of local Health authorities needing to employ interpreters for non-local/international medical staff. It would be almost always fairly old people that they'd need these for. Virtually anyone of working age or younger would be able to speak outside of the "broad" dialect at least when necessary.
Travis   Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:49 pm GMT
That's the main thing - I tend to favor a use of the word "dialect" to just refer to the language variety native to some given location, rather than having a strict separation of the notions of "dialect" and "standard language". For instance, when talking about how people here speak I just generally refer to the dialect here, but at the same time instead of juxtaposing "dialect" with "standard language", I contrast low registers with high registers and progressive speech with conservative speech; it just happens that high registers and conservative speech are much closer to General American than low registers and progressive speech.
Travis   Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:57 pm GMT
Mind you that part of the reason why I treat at least the speech here in such a way is because there is no real sharp line between "dialect" and "standard"; Rather, there is a wide continuum of forms that are strongly affected by things such as not only register and progressiveness but also stress and prosody. Such forms can, in most cases, be easily analyzed as sharing the same underlying forms and only having differing application of phonological rules. As a result, I find it best to interpret such a continuum of realized forms as simply being different manifestations of the same underlying dialect rather than as belonging to two distinctly different language varieties.
AJC   Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:31 am GMT
I knew the word "standard" wasn't a good choice even as I was writing it. The distinction I was trying to draw was one where I think there is a fairly sharp line distinguishing 2 forms. Taking as an example, pronunciation of a particular word, "home". A typical Northeastern pronunciation would be [ho:m]. A particularly "common" one might be [h8@m]. Besides these there is one that I've ill-advisedly described as "non standard", though I still can't think of a better word: [hjEm]. There are a load of circumstances, you'd find the first 2 in but not the 3rd. Nobody, for instance, would ever read out "home" in this pronunciation, no matter how often they used it in everyday life. They'd always have the other available for this. If they worked in a mine or on a farm, they may use that pronunciation while discussing work. If they were on a customer help-line, they wouldn't. The distinction applies to a whole raft of other forms. So I'd consider changes in north eastern dialect use to be interplay between these 2 forms, the perceived standard and the non-standard, and with types of work being a major driving force of, rather than in the influence of either RP or estuary speech.