Is the purest English only spoken in Southeastern England?

Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:25 am GMT
Is the purest English only spoken in the Southeast of England?
Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:19 am GMT
Yes, and the purest English spoken in Southeastern English is that of Queen Elizabeth.
Brian   Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:17 am GMT
I don't understand how one accent can be "purer" than another. How can the Queen's English be "purer" than a well-educated and well-spoken American or Australian or South African? Simply because she's the Queen? If so, I think that's rather stupid.
Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:24 am GMT
Well, she's probably one of the "purest" people around. God save the...wait I'm not British! I don't even understand them. I like the queen, though. What's not to like? She's modest, speaks clearly and I
wouldn't mind meeting her.
Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:49 am GMT
Don't be politically correct, everyone knows what he means by 'pure'. He's probably just learning English English and wants a good model.
Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:58 am GMT
Was someone PC here?
Skippy   Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:34 am GMT
What do you mean by pure? You mean closest to the English spoken in the 5th century?
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:38 pm GMT
I would disagree completely that the "purest" English is spoken only in South East England. Anyway, what is meant by "purest" anyway? Please define.

Maybe it's true that standard RP English English has been largely associated with Southern England for a long time now, mostly I would guess because it is that particular accent and style of spoken English which has been used by the NATIONAL broadcasting media, the coverage of which covers the entire British Isles, and worldwide through the BBC World Service channels. This was the case when the BBC became the one and only such broadcasting organisation when it was established way back in 1922.

RP Standard E-E - seen by many as "posh" English - was the only accent permitted to be used by the announcers and presenters at the time, and when the regional BBC channels came into existince on what was then called the BBC Home Service (which later became the present BBC Radio 4) local regional accents were allowed on these wavelengths only - eg the Scottish, North (of England), Midland (of England), West (of England), Wales and London. It was only on these regional channels that local accents could be heard - on all the national channels it was only "posh" English, and that's why Standard RP E-E rather scathingly became known as "BBC English". I suppose it was very similar to something called "Oxford English", probably exactly the same I would reckon.

Of course this sort of situation very much became identified with "class and status" - one's "position in society". And very, very much an "English" thing, as England (and only England, within the UK) has always (until recently for the most part) been an extraordinarily class conscious country, which we Scots had never identified with in any shape of form - all the aristocrats up here have always been either English or very strongly influenced by England. "The way one spoke" often caused social division in the English, and this was especially pronounced in South East England, including London, of course.

When WW2 broke out, with the whole country facing a common danger in the form of invasion threats and then wholescale bombing attacks in all parts of the country, and then all the deprivations of wartime, a lot of these class divisons became eroded, and class consciousness became much less of an issue, this change being brought about by all the conditions of a war which literally brought the horrors of the battleground directly on to the home front....."everybody in the same boat" sort of thing, as bombs fell on Buckingham Palace as well as the humble little terraced houses in the East End suburbs.

During the war the BBC began using announcers from the regions due to manpower shortages owing to conscription, etc, and Yorkshire voicers, among others, began to read the news bulletins. There is still in existence recordings of such broadcasts, including those of a Yorkshireman reading the late night news in October 1940 when this tremendous explosion drowned his voice out. The guy faltered for a wee moment but then carried on reading the news as if nothing had happened. A high explosive bomb had landed directly on part of Broadcasting House, close to Oxford Circus, in London, killing 16 people, but the "show" had to go on. It was all part of the course.

More recently "posh" English increasingly became something to avoid, no matter what your background, and this was especially so in South East England, where the resistance to it was strongest simply because the "posh" RP E-E was more prevalent in that area and it had become linked to the now "distasteful" issue of class consciousness. Younger people railed against it, and to be heard talking "posh" was seen as a social no-no. They began to adopt a form of Cockney - the only one in South East England that was as far from "posh" as you can get. In time this became known as Estuary, and it's now the "standard" in practically the whole of South East England, to varying degrees, depending on locality. For instance, Estuary is much, much stronger on the "working-class" estates of places like Dagenham and Romford, in Essex, or in the Medway towns, in Kent, than it is in the more "professional, well-heeled" ("posher") places as Tunbridge Wells, also in Kent, or Virginia Water, in Surrey, and so on. So maybe there is still a residue of "class distinction", but even that is dying as the generations slowly switch places through natural processes.

The thing is, Estuary is still evolving, and in many cases is become so pronounced it is changing into something less and less pleasant to listen to (I am speaking as a non partisan Scot here). It's increasingly becoming more noticeable by all the callers into national phone-in programs, and it seems to me that many callers from all over the South East of England, and definitely from the London area, now speak in Estuary English where the letter "t" has vanished altogether, just as one symptom of this more extreme Estuary.

Take the word "daughter", just as one classic example of this. It commonly comes out as something like "doe-(h)-ah" (as near as I can get it down in type form. I heard it so often all the time I was working down in London. As well as "ma-(h)-uh" for matter, or "be-(h)-uh" for better. You ought to hear how the vast majority of the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur pronounce the name of their team...."To-(h)-nm 'Otspur", but to be fair, very few people indeed, no matter where they come from, actually clearly voce the "t's" in Tottenham.....everyone says "To-(h)-num" anyway. It would sound ridiculous if it was pronounced to the precise letters. Only Americans pronounce the "ham" part in British place names (as in Buckingham) as exactly that - for the rest of us it's simply glided over to come out as "-um".

So the answer to the question raised in the thread title: No, not at all. It's "pure" fiction! :-)
Aidan Mclaren   Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:38 pm GMT
Then that would have been Southwest England in essence.
Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:40 pm GMT
Isn't RP considered the "standard" form English, and hence possibly the "purest"? I think you'd RP mainly in the UK.

Is RP more common in southeast England, or are the RP speakers widely scattered all over the UK? In one revent thread, it was suggested that the home of RP was in Oxford or Cambridge..
Aidan McLaren   Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:44 pm GMT
RP speakers are scattered across the UK, yes. It is not regional accent. You learn to speak that way.
Guest   Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:00 am GMT
<<Isn't RP considered the "standard" form English, and hence possibly the "purest"? I think you'd RP mainly in the UK.>>

RP is the standard form of English in England, but not anywhere else, not even other parts of Britain, and I don't see being standard makes it more pure.
MrPedantic   Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:35 am GMT
Is the purest equine only whinnied in the fields of Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire?

Guest   Fri Feb 29, 2008 4:46 am GMT
<<They began to adopt a form of Cockney - the only one in South East England that was as far from "posh" as you can get. In time this became known as Estuary, and it's now the "standard" in practically the whole of South East England, to varying degrees, depending on locality.>>

Does this mean that Estuary is the new and upcoming standard form of English? I wonder how many ESL schools teach Estuary instead of RP (or GAE) nowadays? (Note: I suppose GAE is going down the drain, too, with the spread of the NCVS).
Guest   Fri Feb 29, 2008 7:39 pm GMT
''Is the purest English only spoken in Southeastern England?''
Yup. It's called Cockney.