The fallacy of standard English

Authored by: Nur Raihan , David Deterding

The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary English Pronunciation

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138856882
eBook ISBN: 9781315145006
Adobe ISBN:


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There has never been a single standard for the pronunciation of English, for soon after a standard accent started to be established in England a competing standard emerged in North America. After documenting a few of the changes that occurred centuries ago, this chapter traces the emergence of a standard for pronunciation in the eighteenth century and then compares the two dominant standards, received pronunciation (RP) and General American (GA), though many question whether GA really exists or is merely a convenient fiction to cover a range of accents. Even if RP and GA do exist, these two standards continue to change, and furthermore there are nowadays a range of standard pronunciations developing throughout the world, not just in places such as Australia and New Zealand but also for new varieties of English in places such as India, Singapore and Brunei. This chapter shows how RP is currently undergoing changes by considering the results of surveys on pronunciation preferences reported in Wells (2008) and then it considers trends in pronunciation in Singapore and Brunei. Finally the chapter discusses the implications for teachers, considers how the sounds of English might be represented in a non-prescriptive fashion and suggests possible future directions in standards of pronunciation.

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