. Regional variation of pronunciation in the south-west of England

of lively economic or cultural activity - and relic areas - places toward

which such innovations are spreading but have not usually arrived. (Relic

areas also have their own innovations, which, however, usually extend over

a smaller geographical area.)

Relic areas or relic phenomena are particularly common in out-of-the-

way regional pockets or along the periphery of a particular languages

geographical territory.

The borders of regional dialects often contain transitional areas that

share some features with one neighbour and some with the other. Such

mixtures result from unequal diffusion of innovations from both sides.

Similar unequal diffusion in mixed dialects in any region also may be a

consequence of population mixture created by migrations. (9, p.420)

6. Received Pronunciation.

The abbreviation RP (Received Pronunciation) denotes the speech of

educated people living in London and the southeast of England and of other

people elsewhere who speak in this way. If the qualifier educated be

assumed, RP is then a regional (geographical) dialect, as contrasted with

London Cockney, which is a class (social) dialect. RP is not intrinsically

superior to other varieties of English; it is itself only one particular

regional dialect that has, through the accidents of history, achieved more

extensive use than others. Although acquiring its unique status without the

aid of any established authority, it may have been fostered by the public

schools (Winchester, Eton, Harrow and so on) and the ancient universities

(Oxford and Cambridge). Other varieties of English are well preserved in

spite of the levelling influences of film, television, and radio. (8,


The ancestral form of RP was well-established over 400 years ago as

the accent of the court and the upper classes. The English courtier George

Puttenham writing in 1589 thought that the English of nothern men, whether

they be noblemen or gentlemen is not so courtly or so current as our

Southern English is.

The present-day situation.

Today, with the breakdown of rigid divisions between social classes

and the development of the mass media, RP is no longer the preserve of a

social elite. It is most widely heard on the BBC; but there are also

conservative and trend-setting forms.

Early BBC recordings show how much RP has altered over just a few

decades, and they make the point that no accent is immune to change, not

even the best. But the most important fact is that RP is no longer as

widely used today as it was 50 years ago. Most educated people have

developed an accent which is a mixture of RP and various regional

characteristics - modified RP, some call it. In some cases, a former RP

speaker has been influenced by regional norms; in other cases a former

regional speaker has moved in the direction of RP.

7. Who first called it RP?

The British phonetician Daniel Jones was the first to codify the

properties of RP. It was not a label he much liked, as he explains in An

Outline of English Phonetics (1980):

I do not consider it possible at the present time to regard any

special type as standard or as intrinsically better than other types.

Nevertheless, the type described in this book is certainly a useful one. It

is based on my own (Southern) speech, and is, as far as I can ascertain,

that generally used by those who have been educated at preparatory

boarding schools and the Public Schools The term Received

Pronunciation is often used to designate this type of pronunciation. This

term is adopted here for want of a better. (1960, 9th edn, p.12)

The historical linguist H.C. Wyld also made much use of the term

received in A Short History of English (1914):

It is proposed to use the term Received Standard for that form

which all would probably agree in considering the best that form which has

the widest currency and is heard with practically no variation among

speakers of the better class all over the country. (1927, 3rd edn, p.149)

The previous usage to which Jones refers can be traced back to the

dialectologist A.J. Ellis, in On Early English Pronunciation (1869):

In the present day we may, however, recognize a received

pronunciation all over the country It may be especially considered as the

educated pronunciation of the metropolis of the court, the pulpit, and the

bar. (p.23)

Even then, there were signs of the future, for he goes on to say:

But in as much as all these localities and professions are recruited

from the provinces, there will be a varied thread of provincial utterance

running through the whole. (8, p.365)

8. Social variation.

As for the accents, they refer to the varieties in pronunciation,

which convey information about a persons geographical origin. These

varieties are partly explained by social mobility and new patterns of

settlement. Distinct groups or social formation within the whole may be set

off from each other in a variety of ways: by gender, by age, by class, by

ethnic identity. Particular groups will tend to have characteristic ways of

using the language-characteristic ways of pronouncing it, - for example -

and these will help to mark off the boundaries of one group from another.

They belong to different social groups and perform different social roles.

A person might be identified as a woman, a parent, a child, a

doctor, or in many other ways. Many people speak with an accent, which

shows the influence of their place of work. Any of these identities can

have consequences for the kind of language they use. Age, sex, and socio-

economic class have been repeatedly shown to be of importance when it comes

to explaining the way sounds, constructions, and vocabulary vary.

I think the best example to show it is the famous play Pygmalion by

Bernard Shaw touched upon social classes, speech and social status of

people using different types of accents and dialects. One of the ideas was

that it is possible to tell from a persons speech not only where he comes

from but what class he belongs to. But no matter what class a person

belongs to, he can easily change his pronunciation depending on what

environment he finds himself in. The heroine Liza aired his views, saying:

When a child is brought to a foreign country, it picks up the language in

a few weeks, and forgets its own. Well, I am a child in your country. I

have forgotten my own language, and can speak nothing but yours. (13,


So some conclusions about the kinds of social phenomena that influence

change through contact with other dialects can be made:

a) dialects differ from region through the isolation of groups of speakers;

b) dialects change through contact with other dialects;

c) the upper classes reinforce Standard English and RP through education.

9. Dialects of England: Traditional and Modern.

After the retirement of the Romans from the island the invading

immigrants were the Jutes, Saxons, Danes and Angles. The Jutes seized Kent,

The Isle of Wight and a part of the mainland; the Saxons had all those

parts that have now the suffix sex, as Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and

Wessex; and the Angles took possession of that tract of the north that has

the present terminations land, shire and folk, as Suffolk, Yorkshire,

Northumberland. These last afterwards gave the name to the whole island.

Dialects are not to be considered corruption of a language, but as

varieties less favoured than the principal tongue of the country. Of the

various dialects, it must be borne in mind that the northern countries

retain many words now obsolete in current English: these words are of the

genuine Teutonic stock. The pronunciation may seem rough and harsh, but is

the same as that used by the forefathers; consequently it must not be

considered barbarous. The other countries of England differ from the

vernacular by a depraved pronunciation.

Awareness of regional variation in England is evident from the

fourteenth century, seen in the observation of such writers as

Higden/Trevisa or William Caxton and in the literary presentation of the

characters in Chaucers Reeves Tale or the Wakefield Second Shepherds

Play. Many of the writers on spelling and grammar in the 16th and 17th

centuries made comments about regional variation, and some (such as

Alexander Gil) were highly systematic in their observants, though the

material is often obscured by a fog of personal prejudices.

The picture which emerges from the kind of dialect information

obtained by the Survey of English Dialects relates historically to the

dialect divisions recognized in Old and Middle English.

The classification of modern dialects presents serious difficulties as

their boundaries are rather vague and the language standard more and more

invades the spread area of the dialectal speech. One of the most serious

attempts at such classification was made by A. Ellis. His classification

more or less exactly reflects the dialectal map of modern Great Britain and

it was taken as the basis by many dialectologists.

The map below displays thirteen traditional dialect areas (it excludes

the western tip of Cornwall and most of Wales, which were not English

speaking until the 18th century). A major division is drawn between the

North and everywhere else, broadly following the boundary between the Anglo-

Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia, and a Secondary division is found

between much of the Midlands and areas further south. A hierarchal

representation of the dialect relationship is shown below. (8, p.324).

Relatively few people in England now speak a dialect of the kind

represented above. Although some forms will still be encountered in real

life, they are more often found in literary representations of dialect

speech and in dialect humour books. The disappearance of such

pronunciations, and their associated lexicon and grammar, is sometimes

described as English dialects dying out. The reality is that they are

more than compensated for by the growth of a range of comparatively new

dialect forms, chiefly associated with the urban areas of the country. If

the distinguishing features of these dialects are used as the basis of

classification, a very different-looking dialect map emerges with 16 major


Part II. Background of the Cornish language.

The southwestern areas of England include Devonshire, Somersetshire,

Cornwall, Wiltshire and Dosertshire. But first of all Id like to draw your

attention to the Cornish language as it doesnt exist now.

The History of Cornish.

1. Who are the Cornish?

The Cornish are a Celtic people, in ancient times the Westernmost

kingdom of the Dumnonii, the people who inhabited all of Cornwall, Devon

and West Somerset.

The Cornish are probably the same people who have lived in Cornwall

since the introduction of farming around 3000 B.C.. The start of farming in

Cornwall may also indicate the start of what some scholars now term proto

Indo-European, from whence the Celtic languages along with the Italic and

other related groups of languages began evolving.

2. What is a Celtic Language?

Around 2000 B.C., the group of languages now called Celtic languages

started to split away from the other members of the Indo-European group of

languages. By 1200 B.C. Celtic civilisation, a heroic culture with its own

laws and religion is first known. It is from this period that the first

king lists and legends are believed to come.

3. How is Cornish Related to other Celtic Languages?

Between 1500 B.C. and the first encounters with the Romans (around 350

B.C.), the Celtic languages are believed to split into two distinct groups,

the p and q Celtic branches. Cornish, Welsh and Breton (to which

Cornish is most closely related) are the three remaining p Celtic

languages. Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx being the q Celtic tongues.

4. The Decline of Cornish.

Cornish developed pretty much naturally into a modern European

language until the 17th century, after which it came under pressure by the

encroachment of English. Factors involved in its decline included the

introduction of the English prayer book, the rapid introduction of English

as a language of commerce and most particularly the negative stigma

associated with what was considered by Cornish people themselves as the

language of the poor.

5. The Rebirth of Cornish.

Cornish died out as a native language in the late 19th century, with

the last Cornish speaker believed to have lived in Penwith. By this time

however, Cornish was being revived by Henry Jenner, planting the seeds for

the current state of the language and it is supposed that the last native

speaker was the fishwoman Dolly Pentreath.

6. Standard Cornish.

Standard Cornish was developed from Jenners work by a team under the

leadership of Morton Nance, culminating in the first full set of grammars,

dictionaries and periodicals. Standard Cornish (Unified) is again being

developed through UCR (Unified Cornish Revised), and incorporates most

features of Cornish, including allowing for Eastern and Western forms of

pronunciation and colloquial and literary forms of Cornish.

7. Who uses Cornish Today?

Today Cornish typically appeals to all age groups and to those either

who have an empathy with Cornwall, who have Cornish roots or perhaps have

moved to Cornwall from elsewhere. One of the great successes of Cornish

today is ifs wide appeal. After a break in native speakers for nearly one

hundred years, Cornwall now has many children who now have Cornish as a

native language along side English, and many more who are fluent in the


8. Government Recognition for Cornish.

Cornish is the only modern Celtic language that receives no

significant support from government, despite the growing numbers learning

Cornish, and the immense good will towards it from ordinary Cornish people

and from elsewhere.

This contrasts strongly with the favourable stand taken by the Manx

government towards Manx for example, as evidenced by Manx primary school

places being made generally available.

Recently, the UK government scrapped the Cornish GCSE. Lack of Cornish

language facilities and support is no longer just a language issue, but is

rapidly becoming a civil rights and political issue too. Despite the

growing support of councillors in Cornwall, some key individuals in County

Hall continue to make clear their hostility to the language.

e.g. of the Cornish language:

Pyw yw an Gernowyon?

Pobel Geltek yw an bobel a Gernow . Yn osow hendasek, an wtas

Gorfewenna yn Wtas Dumnonii, neb a dregas yn Kernow, Dewnans ha Gwtas an


Y hyltyr bos del An Gernowyon a wrug trega yn Kernow hedro an dallath

gonys tyr adro 3000 K.C.. An dallath gonys tyr yn Kernow a vo dallath an os

proto Yndo-Europek, dres an tavajow Keltek ha tavajow Ytaiek dallath dhe


Part III. Peculiarities of South-Western Dialects.

1. Vocalisation.

|Devonshire |Somersetshire |Wiltshire |

|a after w |

|is realized as [a:]: |is realized as []: | |

|wasp [wa:sp] |warm [wrm] | |

|watch [wa:t?] |warn [wrn] | |

|want [wa:nt] |wart [wrt] | |

|wander [wa:nd ] | | |

|asp, ass, ast, a > []: grass [grs], glass [gls], fast [fst] |

|al + a consonant |

| |l is realized as [a:] | |

| |or | |

| |[ :]: | |

| |talk [ta:k] | |

| |walk [wa:k] | |

| |chalk [t?a:k] | |

| |balk [ba:k] | |

|a + l, a + ll |

|in the open syllable | |in the open syllable |

|a > []: | |a > []: |

|crane [krn] | |crane [krn] |

|frame [frm] | |frame [frm] |

|lame [lm] | |lame [lm] |

|make [mk] | |make [mk] |

: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8