Variations in accents
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Variations in accents. Chapter Seven. In this tutorial we look at accents in English and variation in accents. The difference between accent and dialect: accents consist of pronunciation ; dialects consist of grammar, word, meaning and pronunciation. RP phoneme inventory.

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Chapter Seven

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Variations in accents

Variations in accents

Chapter Seven


Chapter seven

  • In this tutorial we look at accents in English and variation in accents.

  • The difference between accent and dialect: accents consist of pronunciation;

  • dialects consist of grammar, word, meaning and pronunciation.


Rp phoneme inventory

RP phoneme inventory

  • RP phoneme inventory: CONSONANTS

  • /p/ poppy /f/ fife /h/ ha-ha

  • /b/ bible /v/ verve /m/ mimic

  • /t/ totter /0/ thigh /n/ nine

  • /d/ dad /o/ they /nj/singing

  • /k/ kick /s/ sea-sick /l/ loyal

  • /g/ gag /z/ zoos /r/ rarer

  • /tf/ church /f/ shush /j/ yo-yo

  • /dg/ judge /g/ azure /w/ wayward


Chapter seven

  • RP phoneme inventory: VOWELS

  • /i:/ peat /U/ put /I?/ pier

  • /I/ pit /u:/ pool /e?/ pear

  • /e/ pet /3:/ pearl /U?/ poor

  • /a/ pat /eI/ pail /?/ banana

  • /^/ putt /?U/pole

  • /a:/ part /aI/ pile

  • /D/ pot /aU/ foul

  • /?:/ port /?I/ foil


Variation in accents

Variation in Accents

  • The desirable accent held up as a model is Received Pronunciation RP(received in courts), a social rather than regional British English accent associated with positive implications (Queen’s English).

  • Accents = pronunciation of consonants and vowels + patterns of intonation.

  • Accents vary regionally and across different social groups.

  • Social judgements are made about different accents and their speakers. (low, middle, high)


Variation in rp

Variation in RP

  • RP = standard pronunciation used by the educated classes and intended as a guide for students of ESL.

  • RP is idealized as a model, but also has three main varieties:

  • 1. General or mainstream RP is used as a teaching model

  • 2. Conservative RP, spoken by the older generation (Queen, Lords)

  • 3. Advanced RP, spoken by the younger.


Chapter seven

  • In RP stress falls on the first syllable of the words.

  • Conservative RP was created as a result of a sense of distance between royalty and commonality (p.261) /pa:lis/ (powerless); /ri’feind/ (refined)

  • Tables 7.1 and 7.2 p. 262 display consonant and vowel phonemes in RP.

  • Accents vary with respect to:

  • 1. Extending vowel sounds; 2. Pronunciation of R.

  • A phoneme may be pronounced differently in different accents. A phoneme may be pronounced differently depending on its position in a word.


Variation in prosodic features of english accents

Variation in Prosodic Features of English Accents

  • Rhythm= use of stress to mark syllables in an utterance

  • Prosody p.267 Intonation= change in pitch

  • These are called supra-segmental features because they operate above the level of individual sound segments (they are sounds of sentences).

  • Intonation groups mark usually a break in grammatical structure:

  • [When I went to London] [I wanted to go to the zoo].

  • Variation in prosodic features mark differences in meaning. Accents vary and change across geographical regions.


Great vowel shift

Great vowel shift

  • Great vowel shift: long vowels in English became closer; food became /fud/;

  • those that were already close became diphthongs. Innovative pronunciation followed the movement of the wealthy and influential people.


Social variation in accents

Social Variation in Accents 

  • William Labov (p.276): the relationship between accent and a particular social group from New York.

  • - Pronunciation of non-prevocalic (r) by New York speakers.

  • - Pre-vocalic r:r followed by a vowel

  • - Non pre-vocalic r: r when not followed by a vowel; like car, cart.


Chapter seven

  • Labov divided informants into six groups based on their socio- economic class.

  • Upper class informants pronounced the non- prevocalic r consistently; while lower class informants had the least /r/ pronunciation of all the socio-economic groups.

  • Pronunciation of /r/ in NY is associated with high status and prestige.


Changing accents for prestige

Changing accents for prestige

  • Speakers are sometimes aware of the social stratification of their accent and may wish to vary it intentionally.

  • Research has shown that women are more conscious of “prestigious” norms and try to use them more frequently than men.

  • A combination of factors may account for linguistic variation: gender, situation, socialbackground, age, education, etc.


Problem in data collection

Problem in data collection

  • Labov emphasized a further category in variation; the problem of informants varying their accent in the presence of a researcher (outsider) to impress, to imitate high class persona…

  • He explained that researchers often face the problem of “the observer’s paradox” when they try to get natural data, and the data are altered by their mere presence


Change in accent as attitude

Change in accent as attitude

  • Attitudes to a language may influence speakers’ variation. Speakers may converge towards the prestigious accent or to mark a specific social identity or membership of a social group.


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