Language – Standard English and RP

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Standard English and RP

Standard English

George Bernard Shaw, once wrote that an English man (sic)woman only has to open their mouths for another English man/women to hate them. Until recently, this statement may have held true.

Standard English is a dialect of English. It has distinctive features of vocabulary, grammar and spelling.

  1. A standard form of language is one that is considered to be acceptable or correct by educated speakers.
  2. In mediaeval England people in different parts of the country spoke with very different dialects. There was so varied that people from different regions would have difficulty understanding each other.
  3. The Standard English is used today started off as the regional dialects of the East Midlands. Its influence spread around the country, and it became the dialect that was used in print.
  4. As more books were printed, variations in spelling and grammar were ironed out – the language started to conform towards a standard.
  5. People began to codify the language in dictionaries and books of grammar rules. For example, Johnson’s dictionary, printed in 1755, aimed to standardise spelling and word meanings.
  6. The standard form of the language became associated with education, class and power.

Situations

Standard English is the most widely understood version of English, so is used in lots of different fields:

  • Education – standard English is the variety of English taught in schools, and it’s what people are taught when they learn English as a foreign language.
  • Media – is using newspapers and by newsreaders of the TV.
  • Formal documents – it’s a language used in essays, business letters and reports.
  • Formal speech – you respect people to be using Standard English in formal situations like business negotiations and public announcements.

Attitudes towards Standard English

  • As one variety of the language became standardised, other variations became seen as less prestigious.
  • Regional dialects were associated with uneducated and the lower classes, so was seen as important to be able to use English ‘properly’ if you wanted to be successful.
  • Standard English is often seen as the ‘correct’ and ‘pure’ form of the language. Other varieties are sometimes thought to be ‘corruptions’ of it. People thought that if you used another dialect, you’re not using English ‘properly’.
  • However, most linguists argue that all varieties of English should be valued equally. There is no reason why Standard English should be seen as better than any other dialect. They claim that people shouldn’t be thought of as uneducated or lower class if they don’t use Standard English.

RP is an accent

Received Pronunciation is an accent, traditionally associated with educated people and the upper-class this means it’s different from other accents, which normally indicate which region the speakers from.

Traditionally RP and Standard English are linked – the most prestigious way of speaking would be Standard English using RP. While lots of people speak Standard English (or something close) with regional accents, you don’t generally hear people saying dialect words and phrases in RP.

The most recognisable examples of RP at how the Queen speaks, and the traditional speech of BBC presenters. Because of this, people sometimes refer to RP as the Queens English, or the BBC English. Because RP has been seen as the standard, accepted way of speaking English, it’s the accent many people are taught to use when they learn English as a foreign language.

RP has changed over time

Language is always changing, and nowadays people very few people actually use RP in its original form, e.g. BBC newsreaders use Standard English, but they speak in a range of regional accents. Even the Queens accent has changed a bit from when she first crowned 50 years ago.

Estuary English

  1. Some linguists claim that RP has been replaced as the more ‘acceptable’ English accent by Estuary English. This is an accent that’s has roots in speech found in the Thames Estuary in London.
  2. It contains many similar features to the Cockney accent, e.g. dropping h’s at the beginning of words, and pronouncing th as f.
  3. It’s used by a lot of people in the entertainment industry, as it seen as a commercially acceptable accent.
  4. Because of the influence of the media, estuary English is becoming increasingly common outside of London. We can’t necessarily tell where someone is from if they use Estuary English – it’s become a widespread accent.
  5. However, some regions are accent islands, such as Newcastle, and resist the new, increasingly common, Estuary English accent.

There, it’s done and your free. I hope this was useful, it was a longer one but there’s more in the topic so there you go. Give it a like if you enjoyed it and please comment anything I didn’t mention as there’s always more.

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