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Short vowels in real time: TRAP, STRUT and FOOT in the South of England. Anne Fabricius Roskilde University, Denmark ICLAVE #5, Copenhagen June 27th, 2009. Introduction. Language change in progress, its social embedding, predictions and complications

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Short vowels in real time trap strut and foot in the south of england

Short vowels in real time: TRAP, STRUT and FOOT in the South of England

Anne Fabricius

Roskilde University, Denmark

ICLAVE #5, Copenhagen

June 27th, 2009

Introduction of England

  • Language change in progress, its social embedding, predictions and complications

    • A real-time diachronic study of some features of modern RP/changing SSBE

  • At one level a quantitative study of patterns of variation implicated in linguistic change in some cases

  • At another level, a study of the evolution and devolution/transformation of modern RP as a social practice and its place in the sociolinguistic landscape of the UK

  • Here: an exemplificatory look at short vowel configurations

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Background of England

  • Phonologically and phonetically the RP accent has been well described in the past (native speaker phoneticians e.g. Daniel Jones’ EPD, Gimson & Cruttenden)

  • Methodological foundations in the structuralist tradition of phonetics, a ‘variety’ perspective

  • “axiom of categoricity” vs sociolinguistic/variationist school of thought

  • Historical roots of RP are discussed by Mugglestone (2003): Talking Proper: the rise of accent as social symbol

  • the traditional ‘non-regional’ accent /as consequence of the insularity of public school boarding life/preparatory schools from age ~7, 8

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Rp fact and fiction ramsaran 1990
RP: fact of Englandand fiction (Ramsaran 1990)

  • ‘Native RP’ (s)

  • Sociolinguistically observable through a defined population in successive generations

  • Sociologically

    • Socioeconomic background

    • Educational background and experiences

  • Phonological system(s) with phonetic variations …

  • Change is a different phenomenon in each case

  • All ‘varieties’ have this potential ambiguity

  • ‘Construct RP’ (s)

  • Systematically related to n-RP but distinct and with its own diachrony

  • Here the notion of ‘standard’ comes into play, and can change

  • E.g. on age-graded reactions to t-glottalling

  • Each generation has its own cutoff points: ‘posh’

    • Examples of ‘clergy-speak’

  • A sociolinguistics of perception… (Harrington , Kleber and Reubold 2008, on generational perceptions of /u/-fronting)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Modern rp or ssbe
Modern RP or SSBE? of England

  • A question of naming practice

  • Why ‘Modern RP’

  • Why ‘SSBE’

  • What do the titles emphasize and de-emphasize

  • Standard as a label mixes form and function, Southern as a result of regional history

  • Modern RP emphasizes a generational sociolinguistic continuity

  • which however may be illusory in some individual cases

  • Ask what is the ‘breaking point’, empirically, for a decisive cut with the earlier label…

  • Connotations of ‘RP’ led many to abandon it in the 60’s.

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Empirical background social polarities in the uk
Empirical background: Social polarities in the UK of England

Historical social differentiation in UK secondary education: public school - independent school – grammar school - state school (similar to Australia, vs e.g. Denmark, Scandinavia)

Universities, Govt. Education policy and Access schemes

Are educational backgrounds blurred or maintained in a higher education context?

Application rates to e.g. Cambridge are rising (Access)

Present Economic situation (?)

What are students’ perceptions? (North-South divide, levelling, do accents ’matter’ to people)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Theory sociolinguistics and class
Theory: sociolinguistics and class of England

  • Chambers (1995:37),

    • The “upper class,” consisting of people with inherited wealth and privileges, is so inconsequential – nonexistent outside Europe and Asia and dwindling rapidly there - that it will not be considered here.

  • Schneider's (1999:51) review of Chambers

    • "we are less well-informed about [upper-class] speech patterns, attitudes, ... and although it may be true that for sociolinguistic purposes they are rather irrelevant, that still does not imply non-existence, - for sociolinguistic modelling, a continuum of which one pole just does not exist, would not be very convincing."

  • Macaulay (2002: 398) points out, social class was to some extent sidelined compared to ethnicity, social networks and gender as important sociolinguistic categories.

  • (My interviewees MC/UMC rather than aristocratic UC)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Kroch 1996
Kroch 1996 of England

  • Anthony Kroch’s interview-based study of the upper-class of Philadelphia

  • members of that group were users of the same phonological system as other Philadelphians

  • E.g. complex phonetic conditioning of features such as Philadelphians short /a/.

  • What distinguished them in their speech and in the perception of others was a distinctive set of prosodic and lexical behaviours. (c.f. creak in RP)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Thus... of England

  • A research interest in the sociolinguistics of the successor to RP, e.g. speakers’ rates of participation in ongoing England-wide vernacular changes (such as discussed in Foulkes and Docherty 1999)

  • Is non-regionality breaking down/changing, e.g. in Oxbridge contexts?

  • What does Higher education contribute to koinéization processes (Bigham 2008)?

  • Reflects a changing picture of (fluid) relationships between language and socioeconomic privilege and historical processes

  • Part of the picture of English in the UK in its entirety

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Moreover of England

When is an accent variety no longer the same, when has it changed beyond recognition (mutually intelligible still across generations or breaking down: through changes below consciousness... yeast/used, toasties/tasties)

Linguistic Variety perspectives and social practice/social constructionist perspective potentially complement each other (having an accent versus doing being a student at Cambridge linguistically)

Thus, linguistic and ethnographic/sociological perspectives can/must potentially intertwine...

Need an updated model of the generational picture also for ’modern RP’ speakers (cf Rampton’s model based on Wells 1982)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

The research questions arising here
The research questions arising here of England

  • To what extent is there still a non-regional accent of English in the UK?

  • What phonetic characteristics does it maintain from earlier generations?

  • and to what extent are ongoing UK-wide processes of vernacular change visible here?

  • Are there changes particular to this variety alone?

  • What is its relationship to ongoing metaprocesses of standard-formation/devolution/transformation

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Methods of England

Interview corpus with present author as interviewee

40+ interviews collected 1997/1998

40+ interviews collected 2008

At Cambridge University

Students with independent school backgrounds

Structured sociolinguistic interviews, 1hr duration

Ongoing project

Quantitative studies of phonetic variation to ’map’ the accent variety empirically to an extent not attempted before

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Presuppositions of England

The forces of linguistic change which act on all varieties of a language will also apply to n-RP

whether internally-motivated endogenous or contact-induced exogenous changes (Trudgill 1999)

Popular or folk-linguistic notions of, and about, correctness or standardness also undergo change, due to historical societal developments,

these changes represent developments in c-RPs (cf Rampton’s ’posh’ performances)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

The unity of varieties
The unity of varieties... of England

  • Varieties emerging from dialectologically-focussed studies

  • Demarcation lines become important; Wells 1982 (RP, near-RP…)

  • However, difficulties of demarcation and definition in late modern societies are sometimes emphasized (RamptonLanguage in Late Modernity)

  • So is the British accent landscape characterized by stability as well as change?

  • Coupland and Bishop 2007 reporting stability in regional vernacular downgrading

  • Plus younger speakers’ rejection of standard prestige in highly decontextualised attitudinal rating settings

  • Report ”disappointingly familiar conservative tendencies”..(2007:84)

  • Alongside findings for younger listeners ” [that] at least to a limited extent, challenge the inference that there is a consolidated, single ideological set in the evaluation of English accents” (2007:85)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Contra social practice perspectives
...contra of Englandsocial practice perspectives

  • Social practice emerging through ethnographic approach

  • We could for example ask how do students do being at Cambridge linguistically

  • speaking differently when they start and when they finish… (Evans and Iverson 2007)

  • Are there gender distinctions? (are they potential motors of wider change?)

  • Communities of practice in the Cambridge University landscape: rowing clubs, choirs, subject groups (Classics?), different colleges, could form basis for ethnographic studies

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Data short vowels in reading passage data
Data: short vowels in reading passage data of England

Data set


ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Lexical items with tone group prominence

PRAAT analysis using standard settings (adjusted with greater Hz range for female voices)

PRAAT script by Tyler Kendall to extract mid-point formant values

900 tokens in all, 8 keywords

Hand checked, 4 tokens discarded

Comparisons presented here
Comparisons presented here of England

Compare reading passage data in year and gender cohorts

For comparison with trends in RP over the course of the twentieth century, see Fabricius 2007a and b.

TRAP-STRUT rotation brought about by (1) trap backing and lowering (2) STRUT raising to central or back of central position

FOOT fronting (and unrounding) towards KIT

Changes in short vowel system only.

Comparisons needed with long vowels e.g. START

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Male speakers, 1998 cohort of England

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

M3’s interview speech of England



ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Male speakers, 2008 cohort of England

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Female speakers, 1998 cohort of England

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Female speakers, of England

2008 cohort

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Tendencies suggested
Tendencies suggested of England

  • TRAP/STRUT configuration stable

  • LOT raising vis a vis FOOT

    • Females 2008 plus 1 male 2008 speaker

  • FOOT remains distinct from KIT, process has slowed

  • STRUT/ START overlapping needs further investigation

  • Importantly, individual differences can be tracked

  • Unity and diversity...

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Some sound samples
Some sound samples of England

  • 1997-1998 corpus:

    • M2

    • M3

  • 2008 corpus:

    • F1

    • F4

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Future plans with corpus data
Future plans with corpus data of England

1997-8 and 2008 materials will be transcribed and annotated

Building up a series of inductive quantitative sociolinguistic-oriented studies of stability, variation and change-in-progress

Mapping the current features of Modern RP/SSBE from a dynamic perspective which integrates individual and group differences

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Language change in progress examples
Language change in progress examples of England

  • GOAT fronting/merging with FACE

  • GOAT-allophony

  • MOUTH-PRICE onsets

  • Monophthongisation

  • T-glottalling

  • R-sandhi

  • Vowels in unstressed syllables (weak vowels)

  • L-Vocalisation (variants)

  • Gender differentiations, lexical effects, style effects in all of the above

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Potential comparison points
Potential comparison points of England

  • BBC Newsreader corpus (Hannisdal)

  • London WC (Kerswill, Torgersen, Fox & Cheshire)

  • DyViS – 100 male SSBE speakers in Cambridge (Nolan, McDougall et al)

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Bibliography 1
Bibliography 1 of England

The Modern RP page

Bigham, D. 2008. Dialect contact and accommodation among emerging adults in a university setting . Ph.D. Thesis, University of Texas at Austin.

Chambers, J.K. 1995. Sociolinguistic Theory. Oxford UK and Cambridge USA: Blackwell.

Cruttenden, Alan. 2001. Gimson's Pronunciation of English. 6th edition. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.

Coupland, Nikolas and Hywel Bishop. 2007. Ideologised values for British accents. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11, 1: 74-103.

Fabricius, Anne. 2007a. Variation and change in the TRAP and STRUT vowels of RP: a real time comparison of five acoustic data sets. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37:3: 293-320.

Fabricius, A. 2007b. Vowel Formants and Angle Measurements in Diachronic Sociophonetic Studies: FOOT-fronting in RP. Proceedings of the 16th ICPhS, Saarbrücken, August 2007. www:

Fabricius, Anne H. 2002a. RP as sociolinguistic object. Nordic Journal of English Studies, Vol 1, nr 2:355-372.

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Bibliography 2
Bibliography 2 of England

Fabricius, Anne H. 2002b. Weak vowels in modern RP: an acoustic study of happy-tensing and KIT/schwa shift. Language Variation and Change.Vol 14, nr 2: 211-237.

Fabricius, Anne H. 2002c. Ongoing change in modern RP: evidence for the disappearing stigma of t-glottalling. English Worldwide 23, 1:115-136.

Foulkes, P. and G. J. Docherty. eds. 1999. Urban Voices: Accent Studies in the British Isles. London: Arnold.

Labov, William. 1994. Principles of Linguistic Change volume 1: Internal Factors. Oxford:Blackwell.

Hannisdal, Bente Rebecca . 2007. Variability and change in Received Pronunciation : a study of six phonological variables in the speech of television newsreaders . University of Bergen PhD thesis.

Harrington, J., F. Kleber and U. Reubold. 2008. Compensation for coarticulation, /u/-fronting, and sound change in standard southern British: An acoustic and perceptual study. JASA 123,5: 2825–2835.

Macaulay, Ronald. 2002. "Extremely interesting, very interesting, or only quite interesting? Adverbs and social class." Journal of Sociolinguistics. 6.3:398-417.

Mugglestone, Lynda. 2003. Talking Proper: the Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2nd edition.

Rampton, B. 2006. Language in Late Modernity: Interaction in an urban school. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Bibliography 3
Bibliography 3 of England

Ramsaran, Susan. 1990. RP: fact and fiction. In Ramsaran, Susan, ed. Studies in the Pronunciation of English: A Commemorative Volume in honour of A.C. Gimson. London: Routledge.

Schneider, E. W. (1999). Review of Chambers 1995. Journal of English Linguistics. 27,1. 49-56.

Trudgill, P. 1999. Norwich: endogenous and exogenous linguistic change. In P. Foulkes and G.J. Docherty 1999, 124-140.

Wells, J.C. 1982. Accents of English, 3 volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Acknowledgements of England

  • Department of Culture and Identity, Roskilde University

  • Department of Linguistics, Cambridge University

    • Francis Nolan, Kirsty McDougall, Toby Hudson

  • Tyler Kendall, Duke University and North Carolina State University.

ICLAVE#5, June 2009

Short vowels in real time trap strut and foot in the south of england1

Short vowels in real time: TRAP, STRUT and FOOT in the South of England

Anne Fabricius

Roskilde University, Denmark

ICLAVE #5, Copenhagen

June 27th, 2009