When my three-volume Accents of English (Cambridge University Press, 1982) was published, it was accompanied by a cassette with recorded specimens. The same tape was also published by BBC English under the title In a Manner of Speaking. Both cassettes have been unavailable for many years.
From time to time, though, I get queries about them. Now, with the agreement of the publishers, I have had the tracks converted to digital form, and plan to make them freely available on the web.
It will take me some time to edit the sound files, but I hope to make them all available within a few weeks. I have thrown together a quick-and-dirty web page to link to them. So far only two sound files are available, out of the twenty or so that will complete the set. Please bear in mind that the recordings all date from 1982 or a few years earlier.
The first is the specimen of RP, a test passage read by my former colleague Susan Ramsaran. (I use the same test passage for specimens of General American, Scottish, and New Zealand speech, to follow later.) The cassette inlay for it reads as follows.
RP is the standard accent of English in England, and the accent taught to overseas learners of English in many countries.
Some of its phonetic characteristics are as follows, with examples from the test passage.
- LOT has a rounded vowel, [ɒ]: o’clock, stopped, vodka.
- Non-rhotic distribution of /r/, historical /r/ having been lost except before a vowel: work, hour, later, started, earth tremor, utterly [ˈʌtl̩i].
- Linking /r/, though, before a vowel: after I’d had, quarter of; also intrusive /r/ between /ə/ and a following vowel: vodka or.
- Centring diphthongs in NEAR , SQUARE, CURE: steering, air, fury, experience, there, during.
- Weak suffix in -ary: momentary /ˈməʊməntrɪ/; but not in -ile: hostile /ˈhɒstaɪl/.
- Broad vowel, /ɑː/, in BATH: after, past, vast, ask.
- The vowels of THOUGHT, NORTH and FORCE are all identical: awesome, horse, force.
- GOAT is a diphthong with a central starting point, [əʊ]: drove, local, momentary.
- ”Smoothing” may make a diphthong monophthongal when before another vowel: throwing /ˈθrəʊɪŋ/ [θrəɪŋ], diabolical [daə-]; /iː/ and /uː/ may become [ɪ, ʊ] before a vowel: two o’clock [ˈtʊəˈklɒk].
- The yod semivowel /j/ is retained after /t, d, n/, sometimes after /s, z/: during, new, supernatural.
- Words such as really, fury, utterly, fiery end in [ɪ]. (Compare [i] in many other accents.)
The second track is my discussion of RP, and in particular of the specimen offered. Here is what I say. (Phonetic transcriptions are in accordance with the printed book, iɡnoring the abbreviatory conventions etc. of LPD.)
Here [in the spoken specimen] you can note [...] the rounded vowel in words of the standard lexical set LOT, for example in the words o’clock əˈklɒk, stopped stɒpt, vodka ˈvɒdkə. This is a non-rhotic accent, i.e. historically it has undergone the innovation of R Dropping, so we have the pronunciations for example work wɜːk, earth ɜːθ, tremor ˈtremə, hour ˈaʊə, later ˈleɪtə, started ˈstɑːtɪd, horse hɔːs, and so on; in the word utterly ˈʌtl̩ɪ, so pronounced, you even hear a syllabic l that results from a dropped r. But we retain linking r before a following vowel, as in the phrases after I’d had, a quarter of an hour; compare a quarter past, where there’s no r. And we have intrusive r in the phrase a double vodka or two.
We have separate centring diphthong phonemes in the lexical sets NEAR, SQUARE and CURE. Examples in the passage are the words experience ɪkˈspɪərɪəns, steering ˈstɪərɪŋ, there ðɛə, air ɛə, fury ˈfjʊərɪ, and during ˈdjʊərɪŋ.
Suffix vowels: we have a weak suffix vowel in momentaty ˈməʊməntrɪ, but a strong one in hostile ˈhɒstaɪl. Words of the lexical set BATH have the ‘broad’, that is the long back vowel, ɑː, as in the words after ˈɑːftə, past pɑːst, vast ˈvɑːst, and ask ɑːsk. That’s the same vowel as in the word calm kɑːm, as you can hear, but different from the vowel of gas ɡæs. As far as the set CLOTH is concerned, we have the same vowel in off ɒf, as in lot lɒt, but this speaker says rɔːθ where I personally would say rɒθ wrath. We have variability within RP, as you know, for this.
We’ve got the same vowel in the sets THOUGHT and NORTH, as you can hear by comparing awesome ˈɔːsm̩ with horse hɔːs; and the same vowel in words of the set NORTH as in those of the set FORCE, as you can see by comparing horse with force fɔːs.
The diphthong in GOAT has a central or even slightly front starting point; examples in the words local ˈləʊkl̩, momentary ˈməʊməntrɪ; and then we have the characteristic RP feature of “smoothing” in the phrase ˈtʊə ˈklɒk, that is two o’clock, and in ˈθrəɪŋ throwing, though this speaker didn’t smooth in the word quiet ˈkwaɪət, which she pronounced like that rather than as ˈkwaət. In the word diabolical daəˈbɒlɪkl̩, on the other hand, she did smooth.
We have historical yod j retained in the words new njuː, and during ˈdjʊərɪŋ, and for this speaker even in the word supernatural ˈsjuːpəˈnætʃərəl, which I should call ˈsuːpəˈnætʃərəl.
You can’t leave comments on the recordings on the UCL site — but you can here, if you wish.