Some working-class people have the idea that a schwa [in certain places] is lazy and that "posh people" don't use them [but they do, in fact]. Believe it or not, I've come across people who think that you're supposed to say Garforth with final /fɔ:θ/ and Castleford with final /fɔ:d/. I wonder if some announcers have grown up with this idea of correct speech and that it's coming into BBC English now.
Truly, there’s nothing new under the sun.
Just over a hundred years ago, in 1910, Daniel Jones, then just setting out on his career as a phonetician and not yet widely known, was forcefully attacked by Robert Bridges, the recently appointed Poet Laureate and a founder member of the Society for Pure English.
Bridges was much exercised about standards of pronunciation. As Collins and Mees put it (The Real Professor Higgins, Mouton 1999, ch. 4.11)
Bridges believed sincerely that the pronunciation of English was gravely threatened by declining standards, and was therefore determined to fight to restore it to what he considered to be its proper state.
In Bridges’ view, its proper state was one that closely reflected the orthography. He was particularly concerned with what he termed “the degradation of the unaccented vowels” — by which he meant the use of ə in unstressed syllables.
Quoting Jones’s Phonetic Transcriptions of English Prose (Oxford, 1907), Bridges apostrophizes the reader as follows.
Now please observe, most gracious reader, that this is not a dream nor a joke. It shows the actual present condition of things, as formulated by an expert, promulgated by the University of Oxford, and recommender ter foreigners. Foreigners are really being taught that the pronunciation of to (tŭ), which is hundreds of years old, is now changed to ter (tə), and that in our “careful conversation” we say ter and inter for to and into.
Mountain and cabbage ought, of course, in Bridges’ view, to be pronounced with eɪ in the final syllable. Ambulance ought to have -æns. The poet continues
The only question can be whether Mr. Jones exaggerates the actual prevalence of degradation. Some will acquit him of any exaggeration. Others I know very well will regard him as a half-witted faddist, beneath serious notice, who should be left to perish in his vain imaginings.
’Vain imaginings’ is a peculiarly inappropriate characterization of Jones’s carefully observed and accurately reported descriptions of the educated pronunciation of his day.
Jones, by the way, reports that Bridges
didn’t speak with his reformed pronunciation; his pronunciation was very much like mine, except that he made rather freer use of the obscure vowel to which he took such strong objection.
In 1926 Bridges was appointed Chairman of the BBC’s Advisory Committee on Spoken English. Jones, by then Professor of Phonetics in the University of London, was one of its members.