Mobility, contact and an accent norm: the case of Received Pronunciation

Anne Fabricius

Abstract



This paper will focus on various facets of RP as an accent norm. In the first part of the paper I will set the stage for a renewed sociolinguistic view of RP, and examine some of the e ffects of social and geographical mobility and contact on RP. At the same time, one of my concerns will be to bring a renewed class analysis into the sociolinguistic discussion. I do this, contra many sociolinguists who have recently taken up the meta-narratives of, for example, the risk society, globalisation and late modernity (see e.g. Coupland, Sarangi and Candlin 2001), in order to argue for the continuing relevance of a restructured and updated notion of individually-instantiated social class for the discussion of an elite social class accent in Britain. Along the way, and perhaps controversially, part of the agenda of this paper will be to advance the case that a renewed understanding of the concept RP itself enables RP to claim a tenable place within descriptive sociolinguistics. In the second part of this paper we will be looking at various facets of the changing situation of RP in present-day England. This includes data showing ongoing phonetic changes in progress, as well as overt and covert attitudes to RP. The phonetic data have been gleaned from sociolinguistic interviews, while the attitudinal data derive from interviews, subjective evaluation questionnaires and the popular press. By thus exploring the current and changing status of RP in the wider sociolinguistic landscape of Britain, the discussion will also highlight several ways in which variationist and attitudinal sociolinguistic studies can mutually benefit each other.

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