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RP: A popular British accent with very few native speakers

So what is it about RP?
It is the British accent that is most commonly taught to non-native speakers, as well as being considered a ‘must have’ accent on any actor's profile in order for them to get mainstream work in the UK. Yet staggeringly only around 5% of the British population are native RP speakers.

Compared to other British accents/dialects, RP (Received Pronunciation) is geographically rootless, though it tended to be the speech of upper class parts of London and some of the surrounding counties. Traditionally, “conservative RP” was associated with education, profession, the language of public school, the accent of newsreaders, and used to be referred to as "Queen's English" and "BBC English". Over recent decades many features of conservative RP have migrated to give a more neutral accent referred to here as "standard or neutral RP", although there are still native speakers of conservative RP. A further spin-off of RP is the more recent emergence of "Estuary English", a fusion of RP with the accents around the Thames estuary and south-east counties.

So what is it that gives this accent so much clout if so few British people are native RP speakers? There has been a lot of controversy about accents in the UK, and whether there should be a "standard accent". After all, why should someone change the way they speak? Everyone is an individual at the end of the day, and should do what they feel comfortable with. To an extent, the “standard/neutral RP” accent is the most widely understood internationally, as people are used to hearing it in media. Actresses Vanessa Kirby and Carey Mulligan are examples of native speakers of the neutral / standard RP. Examples of speakers of the more "conservative" type of RP are Stephen Fry and Dame Judi Dench.

The overriding important factor to this and any other language remains. To communicate clearly and be comfortable with how you speak is the most important thing. It will always depend on the environment in which your daily life takes place. If you are an actor and the roles you seek out require RP then you would naturally lend yourself to learning this accent. If a non-native speaker, perhaps it is because your work environment calls for this accent for clear communication. Either way it is a wonderful poetic accent that has an amazing clarity in its tone, due to the relative lack of nasality (particularly with the neutral / standard RP) and a clear, unobstructed path of air from the diaphragm to the front mask of the face, which gives it a clear "bell-like" sounding quality. Below are some tips for your first steps in learning RP.

Tips for learning RP:

In terms of placement: the RP accent has a very fronted sounding quality, due to the extensive use of front facial muscles and lips, and a very clear, unobstructed path of the air flow from the diaphragm to the front mask of the face. There is little/no obstruction in the throat and nasal area, which often gives the accent an attractive, clear bell-like sounding quality. Like to try? »Click here

-Phonemically, the sound symbols for standard RP and conservative RP are mostly the same, but the accents can sound very different due to variations in voice quality and certain other details that are not illustrated in broad measurements of phonemic symbols.

- /l/ is 'clear' before a vowel, and 'dark' in all other environments.

RP is non-rhotic, so /r/ is only pronounced before a vowel sound, but not a consonant sound. Native RP speakers only pronounce a »word final 'r' if the next word starts with a vowel and often use the intrusive 'r' .

- RP is non-rhotic, so /r/ is only pronounced before a vowel sound, but not a consonant sound. Native RP speakers only pronounce a » word final 'r' if the next word starts with a vowel and often use the intrusive 'r' .

- /j/ is not dropped following alveolar consonants in words such as new, duty, tune, assume

-/h/ is not dropped except in certain mid-sentence pronouns. -the diphthong in words such as 'cone' has a starting point further back and lower in standard RP as opposed to conservative RP

-the diphthong in words such as 'mate' has a starting point further back and lower in standard RP as opposed to conservative RP

• Click here for references/further recommended reading

Like to read more about RP? Please follow this link to the article "The sociolinguistics of modern RP" by Peter Trudgill http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/trudgill.htm WHAT DO YOU THINK? PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE COMMENTS / OPINIONS BELOW!

 

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