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26 Apr 2014

What is the accent called RP or Received Pronunciation

What is the accent called RP or Received Pronunciation?

Most non-native speakers of English want to speak a neutral or standard kind of English. This is sometimes called BBC English, the Queen’s English, even Oxford English. But the most common name is Received Pronunciation, or RP.

BBC English

Most non-native speakers of English want to speak a neutral or standard kind of English. If people wish to reduce a native regional accent, it is normally towards this same standard English. This is sometimes called BBC English, the Queen’s English, even Oxford English. But the most common name is Received Pronunciation, commonly shortened to RP.

The name ‘Received Pronunciation’ suggests an accent that is acquired rather than regional. It is also sometimes called BBC English, as the BBC initially adopted this accent for its clarity and non-regionality. It is the accent described in dictionaries and taught to foreign speakers.

The Queen’s English

Historically RP came from the royal court. ‘Received’ may refer to being received at court (allowed to visit). This is why it can be referred to as the Queen’s English, although the current queen has an accent almost unique to her alone. As the court was based in London, RP has a lot in common with the speech of the south east of the country.

Oxford English

The accent further developed in the private schools and universities of the 19th century – why it can occasionally be called Oxford English. People increasingly felt obliged to adopt the accent in order to be successful in society. Prestige is still attached to this accent, and people usually assume speakers have a high level of education.

All the above terms, BBC English, the Queen’s English and Oxford English refer generally to RP, Received Pronunciation.

Modern RP or NRP

Nowadays sharp divisions in class are going, and the RP accent is widely spoken. When people lighten their regional accents, they always lighten it in the direction of RP, so it is felt to be standard English. All English dictionaries and English as a Second Language (ESL) materials use RP as the standard. There is now a whole range of RP, from the very posh accents of the royal family, down to a more neutral sounding modern version. A good, modern way to refer to this accent is Non-Regional Pronunciation, or NRP. An alternative might be SBE, or Standard British English. At Speak Easily, we use NRP as our standard term for this accent.

The modern version of RP, called NRP, is therefore the most appropriate accent to learn, the most widely understood, and what most people ask for when they ask for neutral. It also has the benefit of producing very clear, well-balanced and articulate speech.

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