Intermediate English: What Is Received Pronunciation

What Is Received Pronunciation And How Did It Become The Standard Accent Of The UK?

Grammar included:  “CORRECTING the @ed” sounds”     

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Only a fraction of people speak with the received pronunciation accent, and yet it is considered to be the authoritative British accent. What gives?


If you are a non-Brit, chances are when you imagine an English accent you’re thinking of a crisp, clean, regal and very intelligent sounding accent: think about the Queen of England or BBC reporters. What you might not know is that what you’re imaging is a very specific — and, in fact, somewhat rare  form of English called Received Pronunciation:

Discuss the new vocabulary:

Every year on Christmas Day at 3pm the Queens gave a speech to the people of the Commonwealth around the world.

Video listening section ONE.  Watch the video and discuss with your teacher.

Questions:  Pronounce these words please:

          1.  Often
          2.   My own home
          3.   Difficulty
          4.   Can’t
          5.  History

Video listening section ONE.  Watch the video and discuss with your teacher.

Questions:  Pronounce these words please:

          1.  What does this phrase mean?  “Giant leaps often start with small steps”
          2.  What happened on “D-Day” ?
          3.  How many British, Canadian and American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on 6th June 1944?

It goes by other names, too: The King’s English, BBC English or Oxford English — and the sound of this form of English is instantly recognizable to the English and non-English alike due to its exactness.  It’s important to make the distinction between an accent and a dialect: in the UK, there are many dialects as well as accents, but Received Pronunciation (or RP) is not a dialect. A dialect suggests the geographic region of the speaker,  whereas an accent is associated with a person’s location geofraphically or within the social hierarchy.

Discuss the new vocabulary:

In fact, Received Pronunciation is meant to be a neutral English accent in the sense that by speaking in that manner, one would not give any hints as to where they are from on the map, but establish straight away in conversation that they are educated and well-to-do.  RP, in fact, began in public schools (* it’s important to note  that in Brazil public schools are state funded and private schools would be considered “elite” — in the UK, the term “public school” refers to what Brazil call “private” schools).

Discuss the new vocabulary:

Received Pronunciation quickly became the calling card of the social elite. The term “received pronunciation” was coined in 1869 by linguist AJ Ellis around the time that it was adopted as the official standard of pronunciation for the Oxford English Dictionary. This was, of course, the height of Queen Victoria’s reign in the UK and the social elite were thriving (think of Downton Abbey). RP was initially taught in schools to the children of the socially well-off because the instructors at such institutions had most often graduated from Oxford University or Cambridge University; thus, RP was their default way of speaking.

Discuss the new vocabulary:

RP was then adopted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as the standard for broadcast journalists. While it is seen as somewhat passe (and only spoken by around 2% of the population) it remains the sound of the BBC as well as the Royal Family. 

Discuss the new vocabulary:

How to speak RP:

1. Use elongated vowels: the ‘a’ sound becomes ‘ah’. The word “bath” becomes “barth”, “can’t” becomes “cawhn’t” and so on. To achieve this physically, pronounce your ‘a’ sounds by dropping your jaw and saying “ahh” like you would when a doctor is looking at your tonsils, rather than widening your lips horizontally.

2. “O’s” are seriously elongated: if you think you’re saying the “oh” sound in a word too long, it’s probably not long enough for RP.

3. ENUNCIATE EVERY CONSONANT: Instead of received pronunciation they should just call it “hella pronunciation” because you’re going to pronounce consonant sounds that you forgot existed. “February” is a great example: instead of squishing the sounds together and saying “Feb-you-air-ee”, in RP you would pronounce each syllable clearly: “Feb-ru-air-ree”

4. “Y” is not an “ee” sound: the word “finally” is not “final-ee” but “final-eh”.

Now practice your new sounds:


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