The (old) emperor’s new clothes. Recognizing the sociolinguistic "prestige" of Received Pronunciation in contemporary Sri Lankan society

Bachelor Thesis, 2014
89 Pages

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1. The (Old) Emperor’s New Clothes: Creating a Research Space
1.1. The Territory and the Niche
1.2. Occupying the Niche : A Statement of Purpose
1.3. Measuring Sociolinguistic Prestige
1.4. Habitual English Users in Sri Lanka
1.5. Framing the Boundaries: A Statement of Scope
1.6. Theoretical Framework
1.7. Chapter Overview

2. The ‘English’ of Prestige and the Prestige of English: A Literature Review
2.1. The ‘English of Prestige: the Socio-linguistics of Received Pronunciation(RP) in the UK
2.2. The Prestige of English: English in Postcolonial Sri Lanka

3. The ‘Hows’ of ‘Whats’: Methods and Instruments
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Participants
3.3. Research Design
3.4. Sampling Procedure
3.5. Methods and Instruments
3.5 1. Attitudinal Survey
3.5.2. Semi-structured Interview
3.5.3. Participant Observation
3.5.4.Observation of RP use by Sri Lankans
3.6. Analysis of Data
3.7. Ethics, Limitations and Problems

4. The Empire Distilled: Re-cognizing RP in Contemporary Sri Lankan Society
4.1. Overview
4.2. Respondents’ Awareness of Sociolinguistic Variation in English
4.3. Attitudes towards English Accents and Pronunciation
4.4. Perceptions of RP and RP users
4.4.1. Perceptions of RP as an accent of English
4.4.2. RP vs. Other English Accents in Sri Lanka
4.4.3. Personality Traits Attributed to Sri Lankan RP Users
4.4.4. Challenges to the Residual Prestige of RP
4.4.5. RP in Use vs. RP in the Minds
4.5. English Accents in Context:
4.6. Accents in ELT

5. The Empire Strikes Back: Making Sense of RP’s Sociolinguistic Prestige in Sri Lankan Society
5.1. Overview
5.2. The Empire within: Residual Prestige of RP as a Matter of Language Ideologies
5.3. More British than the British (?): A Speech Community of Sri Lankan RP Users

6. The Prestige Re-cognized: Some Concluding Remarks
6.1. RP’s current level of prestige
6.2. Reasons for RP’s residual prestige
6.3. Implications for Future Research



Appendix A: Phonemic Inventory of Received Pronunciation

Appendix B: Sample Questionnaire

Appendix C: Interview Framework:

Appendix D: Transcripts of Selected Speech extracts

Appendix E: Research Demographics:


Words are not enough to appreciate my parents, my aunt, and my late grandmother. Without their love, encouragement, protection, and support, the world would have been a difficult place to live.

I am profoundly grateful to Prof. Manique Gunesekera for her compassion, encouragement, and guidance. She is not only a thesis supervisor, but also my mentor throughout my life as a student at the University of Kelaniya.

I am truly blessed to enjoy the intellectual patronage of Prof Ashley Halpé and Auntie Bridget who have had a lasting impact on my life.

My special thanks go to Ms. Dinali Fernando whose valuable advice on editing and proofreading has been helpful in refining my style of writing.

I would like to thank Mr. Lakshman Fernando, Prof. Eisha Hewabowela, Ms. Prabha

Manuratne, Ms. Tanya Uluwitiya, Mr.Anton Pushparaj, , and Ms. Deepani Weerawardhena at the

Department of English, University of Kelaniya. They made my life at Kelaniya a pleasant experience.

I take this opportunity to thank all my friends whose names I cannot list here because of the

limited space. However, I will fondly remember the support of Suren Sarathkumara, Nichole Schmidt, Sandra Wells, Kavindra Paranage, Hasitha Pathirana, Malinda Seneviratne, Shani Kalyanaratne, Janith Rukmal, Nayana Abeysinghe, and Sunil Govinnage. They have always travelled an extra mile to help me.

The contribution of my informants is unforgettable. This thesis is based on their views that they were kind enough to share with me.

Finally, yet more importantly, I express my devotion and thankfulness to the ULTIMATE

SOURCE of my strength and joy. Knowing my own weaknesses and frailties, I entrust my life to HIS loving care.

January 09, 2013


The present thesis is an attempt to re-cognize the sociolinguistic prestige of Received Pronunciation (RP) in contemporary Sri Lankan society, using attitudes, perceptions, and practices of habitual English users in Sri Lanka. Since this study approaches RP from a number of dimensions that are vital in a sociolinguistic study of an accent, this plurality of dimension is reflected in its methodology. The research methods are (a) an attitudinal survey; (b) a series of semi-structured interviews; (c) Observation of participants’ behaviour during interviews; and observation of RP used by Sri Lankans.

RP’s prestige has not changed radically even after 64 years of independence from colonial rule, despite the burgeoning discussion on the suitability of the home-grown standard of English at academic and policy levels. However, Sri Lankan English has surpassed RP as the descriptive standard i.e., the standard sanctioned by actual use despite RP’s continuous role as the prescriptive and the imagined standard, which is accorded more prestige.

The residual sociolinguistic prestige of RP is initially examined as a matter of language ideologies surrounding the English language as well as language in general. Subsequently, the discussion focuses on the British-orientation of English language teaching in Sri Lanka, particularly the Elocution industry where RP is still promoted as the most appropriate model for teaching English pronunciation.

Finally, the validity of the claim that RP is used by (at least a segment of) proficient English users in Sri Lanka is evaluated. The supposed users of RP in Sri Lanka are considered together as a small speech community that shares common socio-linguistic characteristics among each other. Despite its miniature existence, the community of RP users seems to encompass a complex hierarchical structure, consisting of different layers of membership.

'And butler!'

'Yes, master?'

'How much ice have we got left?'

''Bout twenty pounds, master. Will only last today, I think. I find it very difficult to keep ice cool now.'

'Don't talk like that, damn you--"I find it very difficult!" Have you swallowed a dictionary? "Please, master, can't keeping ice

cool"--that's how you ought to talk. We shall have to sack this

fellow if he gets to talk English too well. I can't stick servants who talk English. D'you hear, butler?'

- Ellis in George Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934)

1. The (Old) Emperor’s New Clothes: Creating a Research Space

Come, let us go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another ’ s speech.

(Genesis 11:1-9)

1.1. The Territory and the Niche

The metaphorical sun of the British Empire is often claimed to have set, but this merely seems to be a political sunset. A more deeply rooted version of imperialism still reigns in the former colonies that are reluctant to abandon their cultural baggage inherited from the colonial masters in the name of la mission civilisatrice. The English language remains part of this cultural imperialism in former colonies like Sri Lanka (see Phillipson, 1999, for discussion). As once noted by a senior politician,1 the real division in Sri Lankan society is based on language; it falls between those who understand English and those who do not. In this regard, Gunesekera (2005) has noted that English “occupies a peculiar [my emphasis] position in Sri Lankan society” (p.11). Since the enactment of the Sinhala-only Official Languages Act 1956, the legal status of English has undergone a dramatic change, yet English continues to reign as a de facto official language of the country, i.e. the language of power and prestige. For the same reason, the nature and role of English in Sri Lanka provides an apt topic for research.

There has recently been a significant focus on Sri Lankan English, “a form of English with a distinct flavour of its own” (Passé, 1955, p.5), “used by Sri Lankans who choose to use English for whatever purpose in Sri Lanka” (Gunesekara, 2005, p.11). Emphasis has recently been placed on speaking Sri Lankan English through the Speak English Our Way 2 campaign, an initiative of the Presidential Task Force to train English teachers. Most importantly, it is often claimed by sociolinguists that a home-grown standard of English has replaced Standard British English as the norm of English in Sri Lanka.

Regarding such circumstances, Professor Colin McCabe3 stated in his keynote speech at the Sri Lanka English Language Teachers’ Association Conference 2009 that Received Pronunciation (RP)4 “is alive5 only in South Asia”( McCabe, 2009). The above statement suggests the need to re-evaluate the sociolinguistic prestige of RP as an accent of English in postcolonial Sri Lanka. Given that the focus today in sociolinguistics has shifted towards new standards and varieties of English vis-à-vis the expanding role of English and as the lingua franca, there seems to be little recent research that focuses on the nature and role of RP.

There is a substantial body of literature about the role of RP in the United Kingdom, developed by British sociolinguists like Daniel Jones, John Wells, and Peter Trudgill6 among others. However, many issues pertaining to the offshore role of RP, especially in the former colonies where it was popularised, remain unaddressed though it was the dominant accent to travel with the British Empire as an agent of Britain’s civilising/imperialist mission. Therefore, the present study is about an accent placed out of its original context, and it offers a fresh approach to the ongoing debate about (accents of) English in Sri Lanka.

1.2. Occupying the Niche : A Statement of Purpose

In response to the contradictory views about the role of RP in Sri Lanka explained above, the present thesis will primarily examine the extent of sociolinguistic prestige7

accorded to RP in contemporary Sri Lankan society. Furthermore, the thesis will examine the historical, socio-cultural, and linguistic reasons behind such attitudes, especially in the midst of a burgeoning discussion on the importance of a home-grown variety of English.

In many speech communities, certain speech practices are accorded a high or a low

value, which is subsequently associated with members who are involved with those practices. For similar reasons, sociolinguists often distinguish between low-prestige and high-prestige variants within the same language. Prestige in sociolinguistics generally refers to this “level of respect attributed to a language” or linguistic variables such as accent, dialect and sociolect (Kloss, 1966). According to Milroy & Milroy (1992), this “rather vague notion [is] related ultimately to a primarily consensual concept of social class”. As observed in Milroy (1999:37), the concept of prestige has been “widely appealed to as an explanation for language change, but the concept was never carefully analysed”. For the purposes of the present study, I construe the meaning of sociolinguistic prestige as the level of admiration and respect given to a linguistic variable in a given speech community. Sociolinguists have classified high-prestige and low-prestige varieties of a language(see Labov, 1966 & 1972).

Overall, above-mentioned objectives can be formulated into two inter-related research questions:

1. What is the level of prestige accorded to RP among various accents of English in Sri Lanka today?

2. What are the reasons behind RP’s current level of prestige?

1.3. Measuring Sociolinguistic Prestige

A legitimate question is how sociolinguistic prestige could be measured. Prestige is largely a construct in the minds of people though it may be observed through various socio- linguistic phenomena such as accent and dialect levelling. One way to understand the human minds, or more specifically, how members of a speech community construct linguistic prestige is to examine their perceptions, attitudes, and practices about the language in issue.8

Therefore, as a way of measuring sociolinguistic prestige of RP in contemporary Sri Lankan society, I intend to examine the attitudes, perceptions, and practices of habitual English in Sri Lanka. Arguably, these habitual users of English are the custodians of the language in the local context where English is spoken as a second language rather than as a first language.

1.4.Habitual English Users in Sri Lanka

Habitual English speakers/users are defined in Kandiah (1979:86) as users of “English as an effective first language” and in Herat (2006:69) as those with “a fairly high level of fluency in the language, but who do not use English as a first language in the home”. According to Herat (2006), the term habitual speaker applies to a particular group of speakers who use English mainly in the public domain. In this sense, the term habitual speaker may be seen as equivalent to the term, Second Language Speaker. For the purposes of the present study, I define habitual speakers as fluent English users who are exposed to a high level of English based interaction in private and public domains, although English is not necessarily an ancestral language. This group may include native speakers of English, fluent bilinguals or operationally proficient users of English who could be identified as a common group by their “high level of fluency in the language” (Herat, 2006:69), regardless of how they have acquired it.

1.5. Framing the Boundaries: A Statement of Scope

Professor McCabe’s statement was made with reference to the entire South Asian subcontinent, a population that may have been too wide to be approached in a single study. However, Sri Lanka has been under British rule for approximately 138 years, and its diverse yet conservative society still strongly clings onto old colonial values9. This island nation is perhaps a microcosm of a linguistically conservative postcolonial South Asian society, for which reason the findings about Sri Lanka may arguably be relevant to any conservative linguistic community in South Asia.

In the course of the present study, I position myself in a rather self-questioning and problem-atizing state of re-cognizing the prestige traditionally attached to RP. As claimed by Fernando et al (2010) most of us, who have grown up with English as one of the home languages, are traditionally accustomed to the (mythic) notion that British English is a more correct version of English. However, for people of my generation, British English is probably no longer the only correct form of English because we have also been exposed to other international varieties such as North American and Australian, mainly through audio-visual media and personal contacts. However, like many, I have kept a closed mind for a long time subscribing to the supremacy of Queen’s English until the debate opened anew as part of university English studies. Since then, my perspective on language has moved to a more descriptivist paradigm to consider language as it is used as opposed to what it ought to be.

One feels that it is more challenging to scrutinize one’s own identity, but one attempts to maintain a neutral and descriptivist perspective, not to judge or advocate for/against any variety. Nevertheless, because of the influence of the subjectivist-interpretivist research paradigm to which I was introduced at the Department of English, the I-person appears occasionally, where it is thought to be appropriate.

1.6.Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for the present study is an interface between sociolinguistics and post-colonialism. Closely linked with “the social sciences, especially social psychology, anthropology, human geography and sociology” (Trudgill,1985, p. 32), sociolinguistics is the study of the inter-relationship between linguistic and sociocultural structures that shapes language as a communicative tool; for language is culture bound, as explained by Sapir (1929) and Whorf (1956).

Trudgill (1985) identifies three different approaches to sociolinguistics: the linguistic approach, the interdisciplinary linguistic-sociological approach, and the purely sociological approach.10 In the present study, I use a social variable (prestige) to talk about a linguistic variable (accent) vice versa, based on the ontological assumption that social structures and linguistic structures are coexistent and co-dependent. Given the highly multidisciplinary nature of the contemporary social sciences, such an approach is likely to be à la mode rather than a rigorously linguistic study.

In addition, since the present study focuses more specifically on the politics of accent/dialect, it belongs to the sub-discipline of dialectology, “the study of dialect and dialects” (Trudgill & Chambers, 1998). On the one hand, as it seeks to document authentic use of RP in Sri Lankan contexts, the study includes some features of a traditional

dialectological study. However, the focus is also on documenting attitudes and perceptions of a speech community, for which reason the current thesis moves into the realm of perceptual dialectology which “represents the dialectologist’s-sociolinguist’s variationist’s interest in folk linguistics” to investigate how non-linguists conceive of and express their opinion of sociolinguistic variation (Preston, 1999:xxv).

The other end of the theoretical interface for the present study involves postcolonialism; an intellectual (counter)-discourse that seeks to give voice to those who are racially and culturally marginalised as a result of colonialism. It draws upon a variety of theoretical standpoints and associated strategies to analyse modes of discourse such as culture, history, literature, and language, engaging with issues of difference, hybridity, identity, otherness, polyvalency, representation, resistance among others. Ashcroft et. al. (1989:7) deal with the role of language in postcolonial societies as “one of the main features of imperial oppression mainly because language becomes the medium through which a hierarchical structure of power is perpetuated, and the medium through which conceptions of truth, order, and reality become established”(p.7).

In answer to why post-colonial societies continue to engage in the imperial experience even after decades of independence, Ashcroft et. al. (1989) explain how colonial hegemony continues to influence postcolonial societies, especially through cultural imperialism. Postcolonial sociolinguistics, therefore, builds an intellectual counter-discourse on language by studying the socio-linguistic structures that shape the politics of language in former colonies, with the aim of voicing the linguistically other -ed.

1.7.Chapter Overview

Chapter 1 outlines the research space for the present study and includes a statement of purpose and scope along with a theoretical framework. Chapter 2 is a conceptually organised literature review that deals with the politics of RP and the sociolinguistic situation of English in Sri Lanka. Chapter 3 provides an outline of the methodological process of the present study. Chapter 4 re-evaluates the level of RP’s prestige based on the research findings. Chapter 5 examines the reasons. Chapter 6 offers a conclusion along with a summary of the key arguments and implications for future research.

2. The ‘English’ of Prestige and the Prestige of English: A Literature Review

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)

2.1. The ‘English of Prestige: the Socio-linguistics of Received Pronunciation(RP) in the UK

Received Pronunciation (RP)11, traditionally associated with the upper classes of South East England and characteristic of the English pronunciation used in public schools and at Oxbridge, (aka BBC English/ Public School accent)12 is considered the standard form of pronunciation in British English. Although RP typologically originated in the Home Counties of South East England, it is no longer limited to a single geographical area, and recent research shows that only 3%-5% of Britons speak RP in its purest form (Trudgill, 2002: 172). This section of the literature review intends to synthesise relevant scholarship about the sociolinguistics of Received Pronunciation.

Wells (1982) and Gimson (1989) provide two widely cited and authoritative descriptions of RP. While Wells’s Accents of English is a linguistic description of the accents of English in the British Isles and abroad, Gimson’s An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English serves better as a textbook of pronunciation. Both writers position RP in its sociopolitical context and show how it has clearly marked internal variants within, even though it was initially perceived as a homogeneous form of pronunciation.

Wells distinguishes between Mainstream, Upper-crust (U-RP), Adoptive, and Near variants of RP, while Gimson (1989) identifies Conservative, General, and Advanced varieties. U-RP/Conservative is RP in its purest form while Mainstream/General RP suggests the phonological core of British English found in dictionaries, free of some original classbound features that are difficult to adopt. Adoptive/Near/Advanced forms of RP are influenced by features of regional accents.

Wells (1982) proposes three criteria for studying RP as an accent:

(a) a sociolinguistic approach that locates RP in its regional and sociopolitical background,
(b) an approach based on the assumption that RP is the ideal form of pronunciation, and
(c) a third approach that considers its role in teaching English.

The respective criteria impact what we consider the phonetics of RP to be, a point Wells elaborates with three examples: the process of smoothing by which a diphthong loses its second element when followed by a vowel, the R-intrusion and the aspirated labiodental approximant [Wh] sound. While these are distinct characteristics of RP spoken by the conservative upper class élite, the version of RP taught to EFL learners will not readily encompass these features because they cannot be easily acquired through training.

While RP is traditionally perceived as a static accent (unchanging because it has been well-documented), Wells provides ample examples to demonstrate how RP has also been changing constantly but slowly over time. These changes include the decline and disappearance of /ʊə/ in words such as poor, the drift from weak [ɪ] to [ə] , T-glotallisation and L-vocalisation.

RP is perhaps the most well-documented English accent aside from General

American, mainly because it is included in most British dictionaries as a norm of reference for a larger audience than its native speakers. A number of phonological descriptions of RP are available with minor differences in transcription. (Please see Appendix A for the phonemic inventory of Received Pronunciation.) However, as observed in Roach (2004), a de facto standard set of conventions remains almost unchanged to the present day, largely as a result of pressure from the ELT publishers. This is sometimes problematic because it does not carry enough symbols to transcribe differences among Mainstream, Conservative and modified RP accents.

Roach’s article explores a number of existing arguments about RP from a fresh perspective: the misnomer of RP as a British accent because it is only the accent of a few English people; how many successfully adopt RP even though they do not come from the socio-academic background attributed to RP; the geo-political location of RP inside and outside the British Isles; the questionability of the term, BBC English because RP has lost its pre-eminent status in contemporary British media; and the problematic consideration that vocalic features of RP are all discrete phonemes of the language.

Trudgill (2002) further elaborates on the sociolinguistics of RP in contemporary British society. Confessing that he has created misleading picture of RP in Trudgill (1974), he problematizes his methodology, which has led him to the statistical claim that RP has had a minimal impact because it is spoken by only 3% of the British population. His finding was based on a survey conducted among 50 people in Norwich, and he feels he has been misunderstood and mis-cited for his claim that RP is spoken by only 3% of Britons. His claim has been misused by researchers looking to support the notion that RP is dead. He makes a humorous counter-argument against the adversaries of RP :

...if RP is so very much a minority accent, why do we spend so much effort teaching it to non-native speakers RP, especially since, as David Abercrombie (1956, p.55) pointed out, it would make much more sense on purely phonetic grounds to teach, for example, Scottish pronunciation? My own response to the question "why teach RP" is "why not?". After all, we have to teach something (Trudgill, 2002, p.172).

In addition to the phonological change in contemporary RP, Trudgill talks about the attitudinal change towards it, that is how it is being perceived in certain segments of society. While RP is still associated with education, reliability and class, its users may “score low on traits like friendliness, companionability, and sincerity, and messages couched in RP also prove to be less persuasive than the same messages in local accents” (p.176). In Trudgill (2000), he elaborates on this passive attitude towards RP users:

RP speakers are perceived, as soon as they start speaking, as haughty and unfriendly by non-RP speakers unless and until they are able to demonstrate the contrary. They are, as it were, guilty until proven innocent. Similarly - and this is of course far more worrying - children with working class accents and dialects may be evaluated by some teachers as having less educational potential than those with middle-class accents and dialects, unless they, too, are given an adequate chance to demonstrate the contrary. (p.195)

Trudgill concludes with a remark about how RP remains prestigious and influential within segments with which it is traditionally associated, because the position of its users in society has not changed as drastically as is often perceived. RP continues to remain influential, prestigious and important, even with a growing number of emerging competitors such as Estuary English13.

2.2. The Prestige of English: English in Postcolonial Sri Lanka

The peculiar status of English in Sri Lankan society is mainly due to its prolonged

presence as a tool for élite-formation, and as a potent marker of class and education since the British occupation of the coastal Ceylon in 1976. Therefore, English in Sri Lanka has interested many Sri Lankan scholars who have created a substantial body of knowledge on the sociolinguistic situation of English in Sri Lanka.

In explaining the role of the English language in former British colonies such as Sri Lanka, the conceptualisation of linguistic imperialism in Phillipson (1992) is significant. Professor Philipson defines linguistic imperialism as a specific form of cultural imperialism preserved through linguistic hegemony of English: “The dominance of English...asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages”(p. 47). According to Phillipson, the ensuing dominance of English can be accounted to “the colonial linguistic inheritance”, a consequence of the massive linguistic conversion of the colonised subjects. Professor Phillipson identifies five key fallacies as tenets of linguistic imperialism: monolingualism, native-speakerism, early-start-fallacy, maximum exposurism, and the substractive policy. In addition, he explores the transformation of the British Empire into a more sustainable empire of English; the ways in which English rules, the architects of the rules, and how the enterprise of English Language Teaching propagate the rules of English, as well as the rule of English.

In this regards , Pennycook (1994) further elaborates how English and colonialism are inextricably tied, playing a major role in the construction and practice of teaching English as a foreign/second language across the globe. He insists of the importance of a critical predagocial model for ELT through which academics and practionners in ELT as well as language policy makers can untie the umbilical cord between English and Colonialism,

particularly in pedagogical contexts by constructing their own academic counter discourses.

The idea of a de-hegemonized model of English propagated in Parakrama (1995) vis-à

vis “an active broadening of the standard to include the greatest variety possible,”against the so-called Standard Englishes as well as the politics of standardization itself is also significiant. Such de-hegemonisation is a way of developing a counter-discourse to linguistic élitism and of de-constructing the British colonial hegemony in the poltics of English and ELT. However, the practicality of such an approach is rather questionable for de- hegemonising language standards cannot occur without de-hegemonising the human mind as well as society at large. Such a de-hegemonisation is ideal, but more exigent than a mere imaginary de-hegemonisation in theory of related acadmeic or methodological discourses.

The popular metaphor of the Kaduva (sword) in the title of Kandiah (1984), a study on the power of English language as a weapon in Sri Lanka, best describes the role that English has played in Sri Lankan society as a weapon/tool to exclude/cut the non-Anglophone. According to Kandiah, this is also responsible for the negative attitude of the non-Anglophone masses towards English as a class indicator. Although English is perceived as a second language for Sri Lankans, it is “jealously guarded” as a first language by those who have grown up with English at home, thereby empowering themselves with the opportunity to reach the top of state administration, and by creating an unbridgeable gap between those who can and cannot speak English.

The language policy of the British Empire, which led to the élitist status of English, is discussed extensively in Coperahewa (2011), through an examination of the cultural, historical and sociopolitical backdrop which led to the emergence of the politics of language in colonial Sri Lanka. In addition to a consideration of the socio-political and educational reform that shaped the linguistic identity of British Ceylon, Coperahewa’s study sheds light on various nationalistic movements that sought to promote and safeguard the vernaculars. Raheem and Ratwatte (2004) contend with the question of policy with particular reference to

the role of English and examine “the social factors in Sri Lanka that affected the

implementation of language policies and the power of unplanned language planning”(p. 288). It examines the shift in perceptions of English as a component of modern life, as opposed to a colonial weapon, and the shift in such norms of English usage as language-mixing.

Within the debate on English in Sri Lanka, a more specialised discipline based on a

distinctive variety of English has also emerged. Professor Hector Augustus Passé (1904-1980) is the first to officially identify and document a home-grown variety of English in Sri Lanka, which he names Ceylon English, “a form of English with a distinct flavour of its own in regard to pronunciation and intonation, and in the case of most people, idiom, grammar and vocabulary as well”(Passé, 1948). Being more prescriptive than contemporary sociolinguists, Professor Passé’s deviational sociolinguistic study identifies and characterises Ceylon English as “departure[s]” from King’s English. While he acknowledges the importance of the “translated idiom” for day-to-day communicative purposes, he considers the inherited British variety (which he calls Standard English superior to the home-grown variety. Professor Passé’s analogy of a cultivated Sri Lankan speaker of English with a cultivated northerner from England is noteworthy; the implicature is that he believed that educated Lankans could approximate the cut-glass British accent in the similar way an educated British speaker could do.

Kandiah (1979) reassesses the role of the home-grown variety and proposes “a more liberal approach” to the new varieties of English. After a rehearsal on various contesting views about the normativity of the World Englishes paradigm, he observes how the conclusion of the debate on Englishes is unavoidably ambiguous, particularly vis-à-vis the integration of New Englishes as pedagogical models, due to “the lack of match” between the sociological investigation and the linguistic investigation that he seeks to bridge through his study. The self-critique of Kandiah (1979) is noteworthy as far as the issues I raise in the

present study are concerned; that he “still accords to the norms of Received Pronunciation”,

probably in his capacity as a teacher of English, and speaks for the split between the academic and practitioner. However, Kandiah still advocates Lankan English as:

“an independent and viable native linguistic organism which has its own distinctive and highly systematic format and organisation and which its habitual user acquires it (in speech) in that form for use as an effective first language in certain spheres of his activity, spheres in which it possesses expressive adequacy for his purposes” (p.98)

However, his view in the case of written English resembles the ‘Passé -de Souza school’ that upholds the international standard, more specifically the inherited British standard.

The prolonged and heated debate on Sri Lankan English(es) in relation to the English language in Sri Lanka culminates in Gunesekera (2005). Defining Sri Lankan English as “the language used by Sri Lankans who choose to use English for whatever purpose in Sri Lanka” (p.11)14, she continues to talk about politics of English in Sri Lanka with reference to perceptions, role, and status of English.

Based on the results of an attitudinal survey, Gunesekera (2005) shows how British

English still remain prestigious and the model which is mostly looked up to in segments of

society, although some users of English are beginning to accept that they speak a home-grown variety which is different from the inherited standard. The study also features a reconsideration on the role and status of English in Sri Lanka as a potent class marker. Gunesekera consolidates most of the issues raised in the debate on Sri Lankan English, and provides a fresh examination of how perceptions and attitudes towards English are changing

with time (e.g. the supremacy of British English and the attitude towards mixing languages

),especially in her mission to advocate Sri Lankan English as the most appropriate variety of English for communicative purposes Sri Lankan contexts. The innovations of Gunesekera (2005) include defining a home-grown Standard of “English used by the Sri Lankan English speaking élite”, which she names “Standard Sri Lankan English”, and dismantling the notion that Sri Lankan English as a homogenous variety by proving how different varieties exist under the umbrella term, Sri Lankan Englsh. (such as Standard Sri Lankan English, Not- pot/Non-Standard Sri Lankan English, Tamil English, and Burgher English The chapter on the phonology incorporates a contrastive analysis of Standard British and Standard Sri Lankan models of pronunciation which is useful for the present study.

With regard to the notion that Sri Lankan English is actually a hetrogenic variety with a number of sub-varieties, Fernando (2006 & 2010) identify dialects/variation within Sri Lankan English; what she terms as Dialect 1 is more or less the RP or a closer variant of it, which she claims to be ‘challenged’ by what she calls Dialect 2 the Standard Sri Lankan counterpart which makes Dialect 1 (the more RP-oriented dialect) ‘an old- fashioned, super- standard, hyper-upper crust dialect’ (p. 74) The point Fernando makes here is intricate and can lead to misinterpretations. She identifies both Dialect 1 and Dialect 2 as belonging to Standard SLE; what she means here is both standards are acceptable for use in Sri Lanka. The next point she makes is also of central importance to the present study: “A standard is always sanctioned by the acceptance of the community; ‘even by a small but influential group’ (Haugen, 1966) and both these dialects are presently very acceptable in Sri Lanka”(Fernando, 2006, p. 73). Furthermore, Professor Fernando stresses the importance of further research in areas such as “ prestige, class competition over status, elitism, snobbery, and power” (Fernando, 2006:80) vis-à-vis the sociolinguistic situation of English in Sri Lanka. The

conclusion in Fernando (2010) recaps the present state of the debate about Englishes in Sri

Lanka, with which this chapter concludes :

Researchers and other members of the SLE speech community have, over the years, changed their attitudes to the types of English that are currently in use... here is inconsistency in the following rules in all the dialects. There has also been sociological change in the description of the users of the dialects. Apart from this, features of one dialect have begun to occur in other dialects as well. Hence since there are some confused patterns in the dialects at present, although the general characteristics of each dialect can be described, it is difficult to define clear rules(Fernando, 2010:304).

3. The ‘Hows’ of ‘Whats’: Methods and Instruments

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

3.1. Introduction

To be able to speak the truth, we should foremost be able to find it; and how we find it is as crucial as what we find, for methods influence the validity of truths, at least in the eyes of those who scrutinize them. For this reason, researchers often emphasise the need to defend their methodologies. At the same time, truths we construct are influenced by how we construct truth within ourselves, as well as on how we think we should seek it. The present study approaches RP from a number of dimensions that are vital in a sociolinguistic study of an accent, and this plurality of dimension is reflected in its methodology.

As discussed in the Theoretical Framework, studying the role of an accent in society requires analysis of how it is perceived. Therefore, a part of this study is attitudinal. More importantly, accent is a sociolinguistic phenomenon for which reason a study of its nature requires an examination of its linguistic properties in practice.

3.2. Participants

For the purposes of the present research, the present researcher examines the attitudes, perceptions, and practices of habitual speakers of English in Sri Lanka as a way of measuring the sociolinguistic prestige of RP. As defined in the introduction, habitual English speakers are fluent English users who are exposed to a high level of interaction in English in their private and public domains, although English is not necessarily an inherited language. This group may include native speakers of English, fluent bilinguals or operationally proficient

users of English who could be identified as a common group by their high level of fluency in

the language regardless of how they have acquired it.

3.3. Research Design

From a multi- methodological/methodologically pluralistic perspective,

triangulation,15 i.e. the use of more than one research method in a single piece of research as a cross-verification measure will enhance the reliability and validity of evidence. Therefore, a mixed approach that combines qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis is adopted. The research methods are:

1) An attitudinal survey
2) A series of semi-structured interviews
3) Observation of participants’ behaviour (linguistic and paralinguistic) during interviews
4) Observation of RP in use among Sri Lankans

3.4. Sampling Procedure

For the purposes of the present research, I examine the attitudes, perceptions and practices of habitual speakers of English in Sri Lanka, as a way of measuring the sociolinguistic prestige of RP.

Given the heterogeneity of a population such as the habitual speakers of English in Sri Lanka, it is a relatively complicated task to elect a randomized sample ensuring that each sub- group of the population has an equal probability of being chosen. Therefore, participants for

the purposes of the present research were recruited using the quota sampling technique. The

subjects were selected because of their convenient accessibility.

According to the CIA World Factbook (online), English is spoken competently by about 2,148,133 (10%) of the population of Sri Lanka. For the purposes of the attitudinal survey, a representative sample of 400 respondents has been calculated electronically with a 95% confidence level and a 5% margin of error. Subsequently it was felt that this sample is too large for an undergraduate level research because only 156 completed questionnaires were returned. Please see Section 3.7 for more details about this problem.

3.5. Methods and Instruments

3.5 1. Attitudinal Survey

The attitudinal survey seeks to collect data that can be statistically represented. The questionnaire was designed using the following procedures:

1) Determining the required information
2) Studying reports from similar questionnaires (Gunesekera, 2005)
3) Drafting the initial version for a pilot survey
4) Pre-testing the draft through a pilot survey
5) Revising the draft according to respondents’ feedback to the pilot survey
6) Administering the Survey (Please see Appendix B for a sample questionnaire.)

The questionnaire has 22 questions and 3 parts. Part 1 seeks to obtain the background information of subjects such as age, gender, hometown, first language, English User Type (L1, L2 or FL), use of English for socialisation, work and education. Part 2 provides the respondent with 13 common views about pronunciation/accent and RP drawn from background literature (discussed in Chapter 2) requesting the respondent to select their answer

from a tripartite likert scale. Part 3 consists of 9 questions that tests the respondents’ choice of

English accents in selected language-related situations (e.g. personal communication, teaching English, intranational communication, international communication, broadcast journalism

The survey was administered in four phrases. Initially a pilot version was conducted using an online questionnaire. While 19 respondents completed the survey successfully, 8 complained that they received an error message at the end of the survey. Therefore, it was decided to print the questionnaire and distribute it among respondents. At the same time, the questionnaire has to be revised due to comments that it was too long. In the second phase, five assistants helped the present researcher by distributing questionnaires among their colleagues in their places of work/study. With the help of the assistants as well, the survey was administered among the English Department students of the University of Kelaniya, employees of two legal firms in Colombo, teachers and students of an international school, and users of the British Council Colombo Library.16 The assistants were instructed to recruit only those who are habitual speakers of English as respondents. Only 186 completed questionnaires reached the present researcher due to various logistical impediments. Some respondents did not return the questionnaires and a few returned incomplete questionnaires. To facilitate statistical analysis, four more respondents were recruited from the Department of English, University of Kelaniya. Therefore, the results are based on 190 completed questionnaires.

3.5.2. Semi-structured Interview.

The purpose of the semi-structured interview is to gain in-depth knowledge of the respondent perceptions of and attitudes towards RP, as accent of English in Sri Lanka,

particularly where the questions require explanatory answers. The interview consists of four


1. The respondent listens to three samples of spoken English. The first extract of speech
from a Sri Lankan postgraduate student, which is representative of the General Standard Sri Lankan English accent, was provided as a specimen of English spoken in Sri Lanka It was retrieved from the webpage of the World Englishes course at the University of Leicester17. The second extract is from a speaker of Mainstream RP, downloaded from YouTube18. The third extract was also downloaded from YouTube and consists of many features of a non-standard/not pot English accent19. All three of them were talking about the same topic: improving spoken English skills.
2. The respondent was asked a few questions on the extracts.
3. The respondent freely expresses his/her view about the accents of the speakers
4. The researcher and the respondent build an informal conversation about the respondent’s

attitude towards RP, how they would define “good” and “bad” English, their personal preferences vis-a-vis pronunciation and accent. However, it does not follow a structure because the aim is to develop a free discussion with the interviewee.

The different steps of the interview were formulated based on the list of data collecting techniques provided in Preston (1999), which have been revised to suit the purposes of the present research. (Please see Appendix C for the interview framework.)

3.5.3. Participant Observation

Participant Observation during interviews is also instrumental for the present research; especially for analysing their views and behaviour (linguistic and para-linguistic) of the subject. This includes observation of pronunciation patterns in speech, facial expressions, and gestures among other things. Being a habitual English speaker of English in Sri Lanka has enabled the present researcher to observe practices, behaviour and attitudes of those who use English for their day-to-day purposes, which also provide valuable material for analysis.

3.5.4.Observation of RP use by Sri Lankans

Samples of authentic English spoken by some well-known Sri Lankans in the public domains are found through an extensive YouTube search. The process of searching was close to conducting a literature search and the names of persons and TV programmes identified in the interviews were used as key search terms. Suggestions given in the interviews and a priori exposure to the use of English in media formed the basis for selecting representative samples. Literature searching and reviewing were also instrumental in contextualising the present

study, in identifying and defining research goals, during the research process, as well as for the purposes of analysis and discussion.

3.6. Analysis of Data

Both quantitative and qualitative techniques of analysis were used in the current study. While the results of the attitudinal survey are presented and analysed statistically, a qualitative approach was adopted for analysing interviews and observations. The selected speech samples are phonemically transcribed for the purposes of analysis.

3.7.Ethics, Limitations and Problems

For ethical reasons, the anonymity of the interviewees was maintained. However, names of the speakers of the authentic speech samples were retained mainly because of the understanding that researchers owe an ethical duty only to their informants. On the other hand, these speech samples were selected from material that was freely available on YouTube.

The main limitation of this study is its sampling technique. While non-probability

convenient sampling is often used by social research for its flexibility and convenient

accessibility of respondents, it is often critiqued on the understanding that non-probability can affect the external validity of the findings to a certain extent mainly due to sampling bias. However, methodological triangulation tends to enhance the validity of the findings. (Please see Appendix D for Research Demographics)

The reliance on self-reported data (in the questionnaires and interviews) can also

affect reliability and validity. What someone thinks he/she does with language (language

image) can depart from actual language usage (Blair, 1990). For this reason, self-reported data in questionnaires and interviews may not effectively represent reality. However, this tendency of bias can be reduced with the observation of informants by the researcher. However, observation can also be problematic because observations of researchers are influenced by their own ontologies and assumptions.

The main problems encountered during the survey were the non-responses and

incomplete responses. It was not a practical possibility to achieve the original quota, which may have also affected the reliability of the results. However, the use of crosschecking measures is intended to mitigate this problem.

4. The Empire Distilled: Re-cognizing RP in Contemporary Sri Lankan Society

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

4.1. Overview

In response to the first research question of the present study, this chapter analyses and discusses the level of sociolinguistic prestige accorded to RP in contemporary Sri Lankan society. This chapter is based on the findings of the attitudinal survey, the semi-structured interview, and participant observation. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques are used for the purposes of analysis.

4.2. Respondents’ Awareness of Sociolinguistic Variation in English

As claimed by Fernando et al (2010:9), most Sri Lankans from previous generations have grown up “with the notion that the only correct form of English was Standard British English with RP as the norm for English accents”, mainly because of the British colonial influence. For this reason, the purist notion that there can only be one correct English has been entertained for a long time, at least in certain segments of the English speaking society of Sri Lanka. Despite the fact that the New Englishes paradigm has been established for a considerably long period, dissenting opinions against sociolinguistic variation of English in Sri Lanka continues to emerge not only from concerned members of the English-speaking

public, but also from some academics in the field of English language and literary studies. For example, Fonseka (2003:2) denounces the home-grown variety of Sri Lankan English as an “imaginary bag” of “language errors and vulgarisms committed by Sri Lankan speakers/writers of English”.

For this reason, it is vital to consider the sociolinguistic awareness of the respondents,

i.e., whether the learners can “give language the meanings which are taken for granted by the interlocutor or which are negotiated or made explicit with the interlocutor” (Byram, 1997:48). In a broader sense, sociolinguistic awareness includes the understanding that there are many ways of speaking a language, particularly one like English that continues to travel around the world. Questions 1-3 of the current study’s survey seek to assess the respondents’ awareness of sociolinguistic variation in relation to English accents. Table 1 summarises information

about the sociolinguistic awareness of the respondents to the survey.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The results demonstrate that 169 respondents (88.95%) acknowledge that the there are many varieties of English, and 176 (92.63%) respondents agree that English is spoken with different accents. On the contrary, however, the views of these respondents are divided in respect to the perception of equality among accents. There seems to be a rising conviviality towards different accents as 78 respondents (41.45%) maintain that all accents are equally correct and acceptable, while a minority of 27 respondents (14.21%) disagree. However, the majority of respondents (44.74%) are uncertain whether all English accents are equally correct and recognized. The interviewees also showed similar levels of sociolinguistic awareness. Most of them spoke of their encounters with different varieties of English. These discussions included personal views about English accents attached to celebrities in films and in the media, accents of foreigners they have met, contact with different varieties of English during foreign tours and also with regard to “some young DJs” in Sri Lankan radio stations who “put on an accent” which “annoys” (R10, PC, 2012) some of them.

However, it is questionable whether the interviewees hold an equal opinion about all accents and varieties of English. Only three respondents clearly recognized that all accents/varieties should be treated equally. One of them is an applied linguist, and the other two come from a strong nationalistic background despite being western-educated and highly proficient in English. While the linguist is exposed to the ongoing debate on standards and varieties of English, the nationalists consciously support the homegrown product against the exported product.

The above findings suggest that habitual English speakers in Sri Lanka largely

disagree as to the equality among various accents of English although they clearly

acknowledge the existence of different varieties and accents of English. Unlike linguists or nationalists, the majority of the English-speaking population in Sri Lanka remains between the second and the third phases of understanding Sri Lankan English/ the New Englishes paradigm, explained in Fernando et al (2010) ; the home-grown variant is accepted, but the inherited British remains more acknowledged.

It has also been implied that there is a hierarchy among English accents heard in Sri Lanka, based on the attitudes and perceptions towards them in society; this is to be explored later in this chapter.

4.3. Attitudes towards English Accents and Pronunciation

Given that the respondents do not treat all accents/varieties of English equally, it is likely that their perceptions of RP as an accent of English in Sri Lanka may be influenced by

how they perceive accents and pronunciation in general. Questions 4 -7 in the survey have

been designed to study various attitudes towards English pronunciation and accents.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2 illustrates the importance of English pronunciation/accent as a potent marker of education and social background that strongly impacts a person’s identity and personality. All four statements mentioned above are acknowledged by a significant majority. As affirmed by 77.89 %, an unintelligible accent and the persistent violation of the conventions of English pronunciation create a negative impression of the person, at least among habitual English users in Sri Lanka.

Interestingly, as discussed in the literature review, while the significance attributed to English accents and pronunciation as discriminative indicators of class, education, social background, and status has decreased in contemporary British society, Sri Lankan society still seems to attach a great deal of value to them, even though English is not a majority language in Sri Lanka. If a user of English constantly violates the norms of pronunciation, particularly when speaking in public, “he will immediately be in the laughing stock and will be ridiculed and downgraded even by those barely speak any fluent English” (R15, PC, 2012). This is mainly because the majority of users, as well as non-users, of English consider proficiency in

English as a status symbol, metaphorically described as the kaduva (a double-edged sword) in

Kandiah (1984).

Based on these findings, it is possible to assert that contemporary Sri Lankan society, or at least a segment of the English speaking social circles, continue to entertain the practice of accent-ism — “ the act of singling out a person’s accent for unwelcome attention” (Chambers, 2007). It is also important to examine the use of the word accentism in the linguistic discourse. Although it is not found in dictionaries, Jenkins (2007) uses this term without defining it. It is probable that the western lexicographers fail to understand the reasons for distinguishing accentism from classism and racism. Although accentism can be taken as a form of racism or classism, it can also occur for reasons other than class and race, as in the case of Sri Lankan society where accentism takes place in respect to the English language, due to the colonial mindset within the same class, race or immediate social circle.

To clarify whether accentism exists in Sinhala and Tamil, the other two main

languages of Sri Lanka, two interviewees were selected to represent each language

community. The Sinhala-speaking interviewee maintained that discrimination based on accent is rare among the Sinhalese although “people from with strong regional accents, particularly from the South, are occasionally laughed at because of their sing-song way of speaking” (R03, PC, 2012). The expression, “sing-song way of speaking” is a reference to the Southern Sinhalese accent. On the contrary, the Tamil interviewee revealed that accentism is a more overt practice in the Tamil Speaking culture of Sri Lanka. The extreme cases include conservative Tamils from Jaffna who consciously avoid the use of the honorific title ayya used for gentlemen (the equivalent of ‘sir’); this for Tamils who speak with accents different from theirs, e.g. Colombo Tamils, Negambo Tamils, and Estate Tamils of Indian Origin. This is mainly because Jaffna Tamils consider themselves to speak a more conservative version of Tamil than other Tamil dialects (R2, PC, 2012).

However, as revealed in Table 2, the practice of accentism is more overt in Sri Lankan

society with regard to the English language. It often becomes not only a matter of classism

but also a matter of stigmatization when the non-standard is subjected to laugher and ridicule. This unfortunate phenomenon is an outcome of the role of English in élite formation. According to Gunesekera (2005:33-37), this Anglophone élite group in Sri Lankan society considers English “as a birthright” and is “conscious of their privileged position” for they are “not dependent on classroom teaching to master the language,” unlike the majority of Sri Lankans. This group self-righteously uses the derogatory term “Not-pot English20 ” to baptize the variety of English spoken by those who are not fluent in English. Speakers of “Not-pot English” are mainly characterized by their persistent violation of the conventions of Standard Sri Lankan English pronunciation.

The fact that more than 75 % of the respondents consider that speaking with an

unintelligible/marginalised accent, and that the violation of standard norms of pronunciation disadvantage an individual, effectively convey the extent of English accent-based discrimination in Sri Lanka, even after 64 years of independence from the colonial rule. This is also seen as tragic and unreasonable because only 10% of the Sri Lankan population speak fluent English.

4.4. Perceptions of RP and RP users

4.4.1. Perceptions of RP as an accent of English

As explained in Chapter 1, the present study intends to measure the level of RP’s prestige in Sri Lanka as reflected in English and RP-related attitudes in society. Hence, an

analysis and discussion of the attitudes towards RP form the bulk of this chapter. Questions 8-

11 focus on common attributes of RP and RP users such as a high level of proficiency in

English, prestige/status, clarity, and authoritativeness, drawn from the discussion on RP in the literature review.

Table 3 below elucidates the manner in which habitual English speakers in Sri Lanka respond to these global views about RP.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The findings in Table 3 reflect the consensus that a high level of sociolinguistic

prestige is accorded to RP in contemporary Sri Lankan society, as acknowledged by 79.47% of the respondents. Additionally, 72.1% of the respondents consider RP users as highly proficient speakers of English, and an equally vast majority finds RP clearer and easier to understand than most other English accents. Furthermore, 78.42% of the respondents still believe that RP is the best norm of reference. It seems that RP’s prestige has not changed radically, even after 64 years of independence from colonial rule, despite the burgeoning discussion on the suitability of the home-grown standard of English at academic and policy levels.

It is noteworthy that the findings of the interviews provide an almost mirror image of

the survey findings vis-à-vis public perceptions of RP in Sri Lanka today. In the first stage of the interview, the majority of the respondents held highly favourable views/opinions about the RP speaker. Box 1 features is a selection of extracts from the respondents’ views about the RP speaker:

Box 1: Respondents’ views about the RP speaker

the time of the recording. Yet, it was observed that most respondents were more impressed by

the RP speakers whom they thought to be eloquent and of exceptional quality, two notable

characteristics that were attributed solely to the RP speaker. The standard Sri Lankan English speaker was admired for his fluency in English but was not hailed to be of exceptional linguistic ability, as in the case of the RP speaker.

Sadly, many informants could not control their laughter as they listened to of the Not- standard English speaker, which also confirms findings on accentism discussed above. This speaker is a young non-native speaker teacher of English who provides some handy tips to learners of EFL. He expresses himself fluently without major grammatical lapses, although his pronunciation was “mostly non-standard” (R15, PC, 2012). A couple of interviewees, in response to his advice, asserted that this teacher “had better get his English right before trying to teach others” (R15, PC, 2012).

4.4.3. Personality Traits Attributed to Sri Lankan RP Users

At a later point in the interview, the interviewees were asked as to what attributes they would associate with a Sri Lankan who speaks English with RP. The aim was to extract specific adjectives (and nouns) employed when describing a Sri Lankan who speaks with RP or approximates RP as he/she speaks English. The responses to this question in Box 2 provided by the interviewees are also noteworthy, mainly because they reveal another practical aspect of attitudes towards RP:

Box 2: Attitudes towards the use of RP by Sri Lankans

list of both positive and negative traits that were attributed to Sri Lankan users of RP by the


Table 4

Personality traits attributed to Sri Lankan speakers of RP

Positive Classy, Conservative, Disciplined ,Educated, Elegant ,Eloquent

,Eminent ,Esteemed, Exemplary , Fluent, Formal, Gentle,

Impressive ,Perfectionist ,Polite, Proficient ,Reliable ,Respected ,Vibrant

Negative Authoritarian,Ambitious,Arrogant,Monotonous ,Pedantic ,Nerdy ,Old-

fashioned ,Boring,Pedantic ,Colonised,Pretentious ,Haughty ,Nostalgic ,Affected

Habitual speakers of English in Sri Lanka seem to have both positive and negative

perceptions of RP speakers in their community despite the fact that they tend to unanimously hail RP as the most prestigious accent. Furthermore, the above list is reminiscent of the division in the attitudes concerning RP, observed in Trudgill (2000), vis-à-vis the recent attitudinal change towards RP in the UK (discussed on page 14 in the literature review). In this line of observation, it is possible to divide the respondents into two main categories. While those who still maintain their faith in the inherited colonial values admire RP, as well as its users, those with anti-colonial or nationalistic sentiments denounce RP users, placing blame on whatsoever can be associated with the empire.

Interestingly, at least some members of the English speaking élite do not prefer RP

users for a more intricate reason. These individuals who have acquired English as a home

language are mostly speakers of Standard Sri Lankan English, and “share togetherness in their use of the language” (Gunesekera, 2005:35). The accent of these speakers departs from some of the conventions of RP due to the influence of the sounds of the local languages. Speakers

with an accent that approximates RP because of training or imitation will not be perceived as

natural or received within these social circles, because they radically depart from the standard that the majority of these speakers have set for themselves.

4.4.4. Challenges to the Residual Prestige of RP

As we seek to explore the role of RP in contemporary Sri Lankan society, it is also important to see possible challenges to its prestige because of other co-existent English accents and models of pronunciation. Sri Lankan English, which is the most widely spoken variety of English in Sri Lanka, is being promoted at policy level through the Speak English Our Way programme. Conversely, American English is claimed to have “become the most important and the most influential dialect of the English language...despite the historical prestige of British” (Alego and Pyles, 2005: 183) because of the US’s role as the socio- economic superpower in the world today. Questions 12 and 13 of the questionnaire assess the respondents’ views about the impact of Sri Lankan English and American English on RP’s role in Sri Lankan society.

Table 5

Challenges to the prestige of RP

Statement Agree Disagree Not Sure

c % c % c %

12. RP is losing its importance 118 62.1% 57 30 %% 15 7.9%

because Sri Lankan English is becoming popular.

13. RP is losing its prestige 79 (41.57%) 97 (51.1%) 14 7.36%

because American English is becoming influential.

The respondent opinions are not so uniform when asked whether RP is losing

prominence because Sri Lankan and American varieties of English are becoming increasingly influential. More than 50% of the respondents identify the emerging influence of Sri Lankan

English and American English as threats to the prominence of RP in Sri Lankan society. A

majority of 62.1% acknowledges that the home-grown standard is becoming more popular, and that it is a challenge to the supremacy of RP, whereas the potential challenge to RP caused by the Americanisation of the English language is felt and acknowledge by only

41.57% of the respondents. Although Americanisation of the English language is a global

phenomenon, its impact on the English language in Sri Lanka seems to go unacknowledged, owing to the continuing influence of colonial ideologies.

4.4.5. RP in Use vs. RP in the Minds

One common criticism of perceptual/attitudinal studies on language is that these studies reveal respondents’ projections of reality rather than reality itself. Blair (1990), for example explains this gap created by self-reported data, such as attitudes and perceptions for what someone imagines he/she does with language (language) which often departs from authentic language use. Questions 14 and 15 of the survey intend to record accents in use and accents of preference separately, based on the understanding that the availability of separate questions in this case could lead the respondents to produce more accurate responses.

Figure 1: Which English accent do you use? Figure 2. Which accent of English would you prefer to use?

A comparative study of the information expressed in Figure 1 and Figure 2 enables us to

distinguish between the accent actually used by most respondents and the accent with which they would prefer to speak English. Approximately 40 % of the respondents acknowledge that they speak English with a Standard Sri Lankan accent although only 21% of them express preference for the Sri Lankan accent. On the contrary, the accent preferred by the majority is RP (approx.42%), although RP is claimed to be used by only 20% of the respondents. The implication here is that RP remains the widely preferred accent/ model of pronunciation in Sri Lanka, although the Sri Lankan accent is the most widely used.

Additionally, it is noteworthy that many interviewees who claimed explicitly or

implicitly to speak British English in reality speak a more or less anglicised variant of Sri

Lankan English. However, some of them sound more anglicized than others, and the influence of RP is more explicit in their speech. The “we-speak-British-English” mentality among some of the Sri Lankan speakers of English is elaborated by Gunesekera (2005). The afore- mentioned gap between use and image reveals the availability of a double standard vis-à-vis English pronunciation in Sri Lanka, while the Standard Sri Lankan accent has replaced RP as the “descriptive standard”, RP continues to be the “prescriptive standard”, the variety which most Sri Lankans prefer as their target norm when they learn English.

4.5. English Accents in Context:

Since languages are dynamic entities, they tend to vary across contexts in which they are used. On the one hand, different contexts require different forms of language. On the other hand, accents of English may also be perceived differently depending on the respective context in which they are used. To see whether the choice of accent by habitual English speakers is determined by the respective context in issue, Questions 16 -20 enquired about the English accent that respondents considered most appropriate in five given communicative

contexts where English is used in Sri Lanka. These contexts are day-to-day communication in

English among Sri Lankans, i.e. Socialisation in English; communication at places of

work/study; job interviews; broadcast journalism; and international communication

Figure 3. Choice of English accents in selected communicative contexts

As demonstrated in Figure 3, the majority considers the Standard Sri Lankan English to be the most appropriate model of pronunciation for socialisation, work, and study in English. On the contrary, RP is preferred for more linguistically demanding contexts, such as job interviews, broadcast journalism and international communication in English. These findings imply a double standard. While the Sri Lankan English accent is acceptable for more casual and less demanding situations, RP continues to be hailed as the most appropriate accent in situations where language use is expected to create a positive/ persuasive impression (e.g. job interviews, advertising, broadcasting, and cross-cultural business meetings). From a different perspective, it is possible to argue that most Sri Lankans prefer RP as a public sphere accent rather than a private sphere accent. Along the lines of this argument, it is possible to see how RP is preferred by many habitual speakers in situation where they encounter unknown people, as in job interviews and while they prefer to use a localized accent for

socialisation and day-to-day professional purposes for which RP may be too high-sounding

and formal.

4.6. Accents in ELT

Questions 21 and 22 therefore focus on the role of accents in the sphere of ELT.

Figure 4. Which standard model of pronunciation were you mainly exposed to as a learner of English?

Figure 5. Which standard model of pronunciation do you think is the most suitable for teaching

Spoken English to Sri Lankans?

Figures 4 and 5 demonstrate how RP has been the dominant model of pronunciation adopted for teaching English and how RP continues to be preferred as the most appropriate pedagogical accent, despite the emphasis placed on Sri Lankan English at policy level. The preference for RP in the Sri Lankan context of ELT is one of the key reasons for RP’s residual prestige in contemporary Sri Lankan society, and therefore it will be discussed in the next chapter.

5. The Empire Strikes Back: Making Sense of RP’s Sociolinguistic Prestige in Sri Lankan Society

“Take up the White Man's burden -- send forth the best ye breed -- go, bind your sons to exile to serve your captives need.”

Rudyard Kipling

5.1. Overview

The aim of the present chapter is to analyse and discuss the reasons for RP’s residual sociolinguistic prestige in contemporary Sri Lankan Society, in response to the second research question.

Opponents of RP’s supremacy generally consider the heavily colonized mindsets of the majority of English language users as the main reason for RP’s prestige. This view can be illustrated with the following extract:

outlines the reasons given by interviewes for RP’s residual prestige along with some direct


Box 3: Reasons for the prestige of RP in Sri Lankan society

RP is spoken within a small but privileged and influential speech community:

5.2. The Empire within: Residual Prestige of RP as a Matter of Language Ideologies

A language/ linguistic ideology is a set of “self-evident ideas and objectives, a group holds concerning roles of language in the social experiences of members as they contribute to the expression of the group” (Heath, 1975:53 cf. Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994: 57). Language ideologies are reflections of socio-cultural conditioning pertaining to linguistic variables within a linguistic community, and these ideologies impact how members of a linguistic community shape the very conditioning of their minds. While some ideologies are related to language in general, others are concerned with languages or varieties of language. As Gunesekera (2008:107) notes:

In a postcolonial society as Sri Lanka’s, English and ideology are mixed, blended, and confused in many ways Because of the controversial nature of English in postcolonial Sri Lanka, the language and the culture it represents are in conflict with the majority values or are perceived to be so.

The Anglophone culture of contemporary Sri Lanka, therefore, exists as a powerful counter tradition to the majoritarian Sinhalese nationalistic movement. Anti-colonialists as well as the heavily colonised members of the English-speaking elite collectively associate the Anglophone culture with British/Anglo-American cultures and Western values. The only difference is that nationalists do this with aversion while the colonized do it voluntarily and “are more than willing to identify themselves with the west and western values”, which they consider “globally more advantageous”(R, PC, 2012).

As a result of the tendency to associate Anglophone values with the West, speaking English in Sri Lanka is also traditionally perceived as a marker of Western exposure. For the majority of habitual English speakers, particularly of the older generation, speaking English seems to be a way of remembering the colonial past. For this reason, some interviewees maintain that RP should be the standard since it was how “people used to speak English those days” (R29, PC, 2012).

The expression “those days” most probably refers to the period since the heyday of British colonialism up until the time of Sinhala-only policy reforms in 1956 when the standards of English started to decline. Many respondents claim that educated Lankans from this era were recognised for their eloquence and high proficiency in English, and perhaps in exaggeration feel how some distinguished Lankan scholars could be even “better than the British-ers as they spoke English. For example, the language proficiency of Oxford-educated S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike21 was referred to by many respondents, although, surprisingly, a couple of these interviewees have admittedly never listened to Bandaranaike speaking but instead relied only on here-say evidence. Given the number of times his name was cited even by those who have not really heard him, it is evident that Mr. Bandaranaike, who is also popularly referred to as the “Silver Bell of Asia”, has been unsurpassably mythologized as the ideal English Orator in Sri Lanka. Although there have been many other remarkable public figures that were probably wittier and more gifted speakers than Mr. Bandaranaike, they have not been so entrenched in the minds of Sri Lanka like Bandaranaike.

A couple of respondents who have actually seen Mr Bandaranaike speaking in public acknowledge that his unique status as a remarkable public speaker, even fifty years after his assassination is mainly due to his “perfect Oxford accent” (R10, PC, 2012). The received-ness of his accent seems to have elevated him to the place of a “cult figure” among the English speaking elite in Sri Lanka, even when most of them are resentful of the Sinhala-only policy implemented by his government in 1956. One respondent makes a witty remark in this regard:

16. “When this Banda who went to Oxford and who spoke perfect Queen’s English implemented the Sinhala-only policy, he had a very good reason. He and his class wanted to keep English away from the masses so that only their children will learn RP” (R10, PC, 2012).

It could be observed that some fluent middle class English speakers accuse

Bandaranaike’s Sinhala only policy as part of a hidden agenda propagated by the English

speaking elite to distance them from the masses. This could be so that their elitist society will be preserved in the long turn.

It was apparent that the linguistically more conservative interviewees, particularly

those who belong to the pre-independence era, are not ready to receive English other than in the original/imperial form they have heard in the past. Extract17 epitomizes how one such interviewee asserts that RP is the prestigious/ preferred accent because it makes English sound “more English”. The speaker of the above statement is not willing to depart from the norm introduced by the coloniser as the proper way to speak because departures from this socalled original norm ruin his ideal image of “proper English usage”.

The above ideological (mis)conception reveals precisely what adversaries of RP refer to as a “colonial mindset” and “servility” to the ex-coloniser. This is partly because of the internalization of the colonial norms and values that shape the worldview of the colonized, resulting in an empire within. This empire within is a more sustainable ideological imperialism that continuously influences the norms and values of postcolonial societies. . For this reason, administrative, educational, governing, and legal systems of former British colonial states like Sri Lanka continue be near-replicas of their British counterparts. For the same reason, the residual prestige of the Queen’s English continues to be supported by the ideological imperialism within the colonized who uphold the colonial values without questioning their contemporary validity.

At the same time, Sri Lankans who speak Fluent English with less “local-flavoured

accents” (R17, PC, 2012) (i.e. geographically more or less neutral accents) are often identified as speakers of RP, the ideal norm prescribed by the majority of Sri Lankan habitual English users as opposed to the descriptive and home-grown standard.

It was observed in the interviews that many respondents who derided Sri Lankan

English and claimed that they prefer the British norm, were in fact far from RP (in the ears of a linguist) although their accent was more regionally neutral than some of their counterparts who speak English with a strong Sri Lankan flavour. At the same time, when asked to name well-known Sri Lankans who use RP, some respondents identified distinguished Sri Lankans who speak/spoke English eloquently but whose pronunciation departs radically from the phonological core of RP.

It is also felt that the received-ness of RP is synonymous with accuracy, clarity, and fluency of speech articulated by Sri Lankans. This reveals a tendency to (mis) perceive Sri Lankans who speak well-articulated English as speakers of RP, and this ideological misconception is largely responsible for the special treatment that RP receive as opposed to other accents of English in Sri Lanka. The picture created in the public is that Sri Lankans who speak “good English” use RP, while the label Sri Lankan English speaker is often used by non-experts (i.e. those with minimal background in linguistics) to refer to English for speakers with broad Sri Lankans accents.

In addition, an anglicized English accent often seems to be considered a sign of refinement in a person. A former Sri Lankan Professor of English explained how Sri Lankans of his generation, including distinguished academics from the English Department of the University of Ceylon like Professor Ludowyke and Professor Passé spoke “an anglicised form” of English, “because they thought that’s the best they could do” (R25, PC, 2012). He further believes that the situation in the university English Department(s) is not different from the situation now. However, it seemed that he preferred his own term, “anglicized form” in lieu of RP and claims that he is a speaker of “Educated Lankan English”(R, PC, 2012).

As noted by Gunesekera (2005:12), the “we speak British English attitude” among

some members of the Anglophone middle and upper middle classes arises from the reluctance to acknowledge the presence of (Standard) Sri Lankan English, and for this reason they consider the variety they speak as “a slight variation of (Standard) British English”, along with RP.

What these speakers fail to realize is that the absence of discernible local flavour and the effect of Anglicization does not necessarily make their accent RP in its original sense although it shares many of RP’s characteristics. Most of these valiant proponents of RP were educated within a system that was moulded after the British. While RP users will also recognise this variety of Sri Lankan English as good English, they will not accept it as RP. Interestingly , it is doubtful whether these propagators of RP in Sri Lanka follow the very norm they advocate as in the case of the interviewee who made this statement and whose accent is slightly more anglicized in terms of intonation and rhythm, but notably different from RP.

Another common reason for RP’s significance by its propagators is the fact that it enjoys special status spoken within a small but privileged and influential speech community, both in the UK as well as in the former colonies like Sri Lanka. In linguistically conservative speech communities where there is a strong link between language and elite formation, linguistic variables associated with privileged minorities tend to maintain more prestige than widely spoken variables of the same language. Therefore, the link between English, along with RP and elite-formation, endows it with greater socio-linguistic prestige than the accent with which the majority speak.

In fact, there seem to be only a handful of people who successfully adopt Standard British Pronunciation by training or imitation, while many who try ultimately find their efforts futile. For this reason, the privileged and gifted few whose pronunciation hardly depart from English pronunciation in the dictionaries are considered being exceptional. The fact that RP is an unachievable target for the majority who struggle with English fluency makes it seem an enviable luxury.

Similarly, the claim that RP remains more prestigious because of its historical significance can be attributed to the strong linguistic conservatism in Sri Lankan society, particularly vis-à-vis the English language. What leads many Sri Lankans to consider RP historically supreme to the Standard Sri Lankan accent is the belief that Standard English, spoken in Sri Lanka, is a slight variant of Standard British English; Gunesekera (2005:12), however, considers this a delusion. Despite this, there seems to be a great deal of similarity between the two varieties.

It is also apparent that the inherited British standard has played a significant role in the formation of the standard set by the English speaking elite, as maintained by a respondent who claimed that he “was elocuted at school and then de-elocuted at home”. The Sri Lankan standard seemed to have developed initially because the mimic class was trying to approximate the coloniser, but since this time of colonial impersonation, it has gradually evolved as variety of its own. For this reason, RP tends to be considered as linguistically more purist than the home-grown standard, despite the fact that RP is no longer in wide use. Advocators of RP suggest, particularly for pedagogical purposes, that Sri Lankans follow an internationally recognised English variety, along with an internationally accepted form of pronunciation”. This attitude leads many teachers and students of English to turn to RP, which they consider the best form of pronunciation, “widely accepted, and endorsed by many in the international community”. According to Bolton (2008), globalisation of Asia has resulted in “a re-orientalisation of linguistic performance away from localised, international norms towards a “native-like” performance.

Those who strongly advocated RP during the interviews brought an “unsupported” notion of the supremacy of RP; they considered RP to be the only or most correct standard for a reason they did not explain or did not know how to explain.

A conscious choice to move away from this heavily colonised and popular perception that RP is superior to other accents may arise as a response to exposure to the current state of the debate vis-à-vis the contemporary developments in the discourses of nationalism /post- colonialism and the changing role of English as a global language.

5.3. The Empire Teaches Back: The British Orientation of ELT in Sri Lanka

As demonstrated in Figures 4 and 5 in Chapter 4, the survey results reveal how RP has been, and continues to be, preferred as the most appropriate accent for pedagogical purposes, despite the emphasis placed on Sri Lankan English at policy level. This preference for RP over Sri Lankan English in the Sri Lankan context of ELT is one of the key reasons for RP’s residual prestige in contemporary Sri Lankan society, mainly because the professional ELT industry in Sri Lanka as well as in th South Asian region continues to be largely British oriented.

As thoroughly explained in Phillipson (1999), the dominance of the British norm can be accounted for, on the one hand, to the reluctance in the former colonies to abandon the colonial linguistic inheritance. Yet, on the other hand, it becomes apparent that some of the cultural agencies and educational establishments of the UK market themselves in the former colonies where a great deal of emphasis on quality English language learning is placed. The fallacy of native speakerism, i.e. the notion that native speakers are the ideal teachers, is used to promote British English over other varieties of English. In reality, however, most of the British EFL teachers in the international industry are not native speakers of RP. Most

gradually lose regional features in their speech to adopt a geographically neutral accent,

approximating the phonological core of RP for classroom use.

A university lecturer in his early thirties who teaches ESL in a State University, in addition to being a teacher of Speech and Drama, and who neither venerates nor condemn RP, appears to hold a relatively unbiased attitude. He claims that his “real accent” is “typically Sri Lankan”, despite his training in RP, but he switches to RP in the Speech and Drama classroom “where it becomes a prerequisite” (R01, PC, 2012). Yet, the need to switch from the Sri Lankan accent to RP for pedagogical purposes imbues the ideology that RP is a more correct way of speaking English. This innovative attitude was not found in his more conservative counterpart, another Elocution/Speech, and Drama teacher her late sixties, for whom the inherited British standard is “still the only standard” (R02, PC, 2012). As far as she is concerned, Sri Lankan English is only a deviation, which is “good enough for communication among Sri Lankans because English is only a foreign language to most of them” (R02, PC, 2012). She complains that most of the younger elocution teachers who enter the profession have weak pronunciation and are therefore not fit to teach pronunciation. Sri Lanka offers an uncompromisingly large market for the British-oriented elocution industry, which has recently come to be known as Speech and Drama. McArthur (1992: 345) defines elocution as “the study and practice of oral delivery, including control of breath, voice, pronunciation, stance, and gesture; the way in which someone speaks or reads aloud, especially in public.” However, this term is used in the Sri Lankan context mainly for teaching spoken English, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and conversation skills. In Sri Lankan society, people often distinguish an accent that is known as ‘the elocution accent’: an elicited and artificial form of articulating speech, which shares the phonological core of Standard British English/ Received Pronunciation. However, this elocuted accent is not RP in its purest form, i.e. Upper Crust RP (Wells, 1982) or Conservative RP (Gimson, 1989).

The term “adoptive RP” introduced by Wells (1982) is defined as a version of Received Pronunciation employed by users of RP who did not speak it as native speakers, and this definition suits many Sri Lankans who adopt RP as a result of elocution. It is distinguished by a lack of command over “informal and allegro characteristics” typical of native RP speakers, which are difficult to be acquired through speech training. Pathirana (2009) elaborates further on the use of accent in the elocution classroom. According to his findings, almost all the senior examiners acknowledge that RP is taken as “the guideline through which they determine the syllabic stress and English intonation pattern” in order to teach “clear natural speech” which is internationally understood. He maintains that selecting RP, as the only correct form is a matter of choice determined by different levels of exposure and that most university educated speech trainers from the younger generation consciously depart from the “RP only policy”, as opposed to trainers from more conservative backgrounds.

The British-orientation of the ELT industry in Sri Lanka can be explained further in light of the impact made by the British Council in Sri Lanka. The teaching centre in Colombo seems to be larger than many other BC Teaching Centres in the region, and this is mainly because of the absence of an equally influential competitor. Parakrama (1997) identifies the power of the British council as the modern day agent of the cultural imperialism of England when he says, “the Brits are back, with a vengeance” (Fernando et al, 2010: 94). Parakrama highlights the popular perception through many examples, such as the Colombo Diplomatic Training School’s decision to seek the help of the university “to train the new recruits because the government could not afford the best- the British Council” and the views expressed by the stakeholders of the British Council Teaching Centre, i.e. the students and their parents. At the same time, most of the EFL material used in this region is published by British publishing houses, such as Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, and this has strengthened the power of the British ELT Empire in Sri Lanka, leaving virtually no access to the material produced by ELT experts from this region. It was reported that Daniel Jones’s Pronouncing Dictionary remains the sole authority on pronunciation among broadcasters and teachers of English.

In addition, due to the absence of a standard national framework of testing and

evaluation in ESL/EFL, Sri Lankan students and organisations have to rely heavily on UKbased English examinations. The majority of these examinations may not explicitly prescribe RP for ethical/political reasons. However, regulations and handbooks seem to suggest that that Received Pronunciation is the variety that is more “acceptable”, and the students are indirectly motivated to use RP as a role model that they should approximate. For example, while recognising the diversity of English as a world’s language, Trinity-Guildhall syllabus for Communication Skills imposes the following regulation:

There is no requirement for candidates to conform linguistically to all features of British Standard English or Received Pronunciation. However, candidates’ oral communication must be rooted in an internationally accepted model of English, which does not impose difficulty of comprehension or undue strain for the listener. (Trinity Guildhall, 2010, p. 11)

There is an implied invitation in this regulation for the student to assimilate the phonological core of British English cum Received Pronunciation, although not necessarily in its entirety. The outcome therefore would be a hybrid model closer to what has been identified as adoptive or near RP. When judged against this hybrid variety, the original role model continues to be considered more important, prestigious and beyond achievement.

5.3. More British than the British (?): A Speech Community of Sri Lankan RP Users

The discussion on reasons for RP’s residual sociolinguistic prestige in Sri Lankan society remains incomplete without an examination of how RP is used by Sri Lankans for various communicative purposes. This is mainly because one reason for RP’s significant status is the existence of many English speakers associated with RP. For the purposes of the present discussion, these supposed users of RP in Sri Lanka will be considered together as a small speech community, and examples of actual RP use by individuals in this speech community will be used as examples of the models of RP used authentically in Sri Lanka.

Gumperz (1982: 24) defines a speech community as a “system of organized diversity held together by common norms and aspirations”, and a speech community is typically characterised by common characteristics. Despite being extremely limited in number and a species in extinction, members of this speech community share common characteristics among each other and remain influential in society.

As demonstrated in Figures 1 and 2, (see Chapter 4) 20% of the respondents to

attitudinal survey claims that they use RP, and therefore establishes the fact that an RP-

speaking speech community exists in contemporary society. Furthermore, 42% of the

respondents claim that they prefer to use RP. The gap between the two figures suggests that approximately 22% of the respondents wish to join the afore-said speech community that uses RP. During the interviews, the interviewees were asked whether they knew a Sri Lankan or a group of Sri Lankans who can be associated with the RP accent. Except the applied linguist, almost all the respondents provided affirmative responses to this question. Some of the

representative responses are as follows:

Box 4: Members of the Sri Lankan community of RP users

Subsequently, the interviewees were asked to name any distinguished Sri Lankans whom they would identify as users of RP. Table 5 below presents the list of names compiled by the researcher based on the responses of the interviewees.

Table 6:

A List of RP speakers of Sri Lankan origin

Name Education Profession

1. Arun Dias Bandaranaike St.Thomas’College, Colombo TV Presenter

2. Christoper Greet* Royal College, Colombo Former SLBC Presenter, r

3. Clifford Richards St. Anthony’s College, Kandy Singer and TV Presenter

4. George Alagiah†

5. Keshini Navaratnam†

St.Peter’s College, Colombo Journalist/BBC Presenter Durham University, UK

University of Cambridge BBC Presenter

6. Livy Wijemanne * Royal College, Colombo Former SLBC Presenter

Ceylon University College

Colombo Plan Scholar at BBC Training Unit,


7. Noelin Hontor TCL, London (Professional Qualifications in Teacher of English, Speech and Drama,

Speech and Drama) Former TV Presenter, Singer

8. Paikyasothi St. Thomas’ College, Colombo Academic/ Political Activist/ Director,

Saranavanamutthu London School of Economics CPA

9. Rajiva Wijesinha St. Thomas’ College, Colombo Former Professor of English/ MP

University of Oxford

10. Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva Trinity College, Kandy QC, Former Ceylonese Ambassador to

Dulwich College, London France

Sri Lanka Law College

11. Soloman Dias St. Thomas’ College, Colombo - Former Prime Minister of Ceylon

Bandaranaike* University of Oxford

12. Sunila Galappatti- Ladies College, Colombo Theatre Professional (RSC) and Former

University of Cambridge Galle Literary Festival Coordinator

13. Tracy Holsinger Holy Family Convent, Dramatist

Licentiate, Trinity College London

14. Vernon Corea* Royal College, Colombo Former SLBC Presenter

Bishop’s College, Calcutta

15. Vijaya Corea St. Thomas’ College, Colombo Former SLBC Presenter

* no longer alive † expatriate

According to Gumperz (1968:43), the collective identity of a speech community can

be described by shared by “a shared set of social norms” as well as common linguistic forms that govern the community. As far as the “shared set of social norms” is concerned, the RP speaking community seem to possess come common characteristics among themselves. Box 5 below outline some of these characteristics:

Box 5: Characteristics of the members of the RP speaking community

Almost all of them:

- are native speakers of English have grown up in an English speaking background
- belong to the upper and upper-middle classes
- are members of elitist social and professional circles
- have received an English-medium/bilingual education which is not available to the majority of Sri Lankans
- have received their basic education from institutions established by the colonisers modelled on British public schools
- have a British higher educational background
- are in linguistically demanding professions where a high proficiency of English is obligatory ( acting, broadcasting, law and etc)
- are considered envoys of western culture in Sri Lanka and representatives of westernized Lankan culture
- plays an active role in civil society

The discussion on the speech community of RP users will not be complete without a

consideration of how RP has influenced the speech of these individuals. This requires an

elucidation of how RP is authentically used by at least some of the afore-mentioned

personalities for various communicative purposes. As described in Chapter 3 (Section 3.5.5), the present researcher phonemically analyses selected samples of authentic English spoken by some of these individuals. The names of these individuals are as follows:

Speaker A: Arun Dias Bandaranaike;

Speaker B: Clifford Richards; Speaker C: Noelin Hontor;

Speaker D: Paikyasothi Saranavanamutthu; Speaker E: Rajiva Wijesinha;

Speaker F: Solomon Dias Bandaranaike;

Speaker G: Sunila Galappatti;

Speaker H: Tracy Holsinger; and Speaker H: Vijaya Corea

The criterion for short-listing these persons for analysis is their continuous and influential presence in political or socio-cultural spheres of contemporary Sri Lankan society. Solomon Dias Bandaranaike is the only non-living example selected, and his speech has been incorporated into the analysis because of his mythologized presence in contemporary Sri Lanka as a role model to emulate, when speaking English.22

Table 7 below features an analysis of the major characteristics in the speech samples from the afore mentioned persons. Please see Appendix E for full phonetic transcriptions of their speech. The list of characteristics used for the purposes of analysing speech was compiled using Wells (1982), Gimson (1989) and Gunesekera (2005).

Table 7

Features of RP found in selected speech extracts


Characteristics peculiar to RP that are not found in General Sri Lankan Pronunciation

The dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] instead of dental [ t ] and [ d ] in SLE    ?     

Aspirated voiceless plosives (e.g. [ph], [th],[kh]        

the velarised lateral [ɬ ]         

the alveolar tap [ɾ]       

The “old-fashioned voicing” of the labiodental fricative at the end of words by replacing [f] with /v/ is made         

by all three speakers especially when they pronounce ‘of’ as [ɒv]

the replacement of mid [e] of Traditional RP with the front open mid vowel [ɛ] in Contemporary RP         

the unrounded mid central vowel [ə] (schwa), i.e. the neutral vowel produced with the tongue and lips in         

their rest positions

distinction between the dental fricative [v] and labio-velar approximant [ w] sounds which are replaced by         

the majority of Lankan users with the labio-dental approximant [ʋ]

the alveolar [t] and [d] sounds         

closing diphthongs [eɪ] and [əʊ] and centering diphthong [eə]  ?       

silencing the [r] at the end of a word when the next word begins with a vowel ? ?       ?

Adherence to the stress patterns of RP.23 ( Please see the transcriptions)      ?

the more gliding-up-and-down (rising-falling) intonation (as opposed to the more lilting and musical         

intonation pattern of SLE24

 Found and generally consistent  Not-found ? Found but inconsistent

As far as the findings of the above table are concerned, it is apparent that all users are not

equally influenced by RP since some characteristics are not found in all the selected speakers. Despite being a miniature speech community, the community of RP users, therefore, seems to encompass a complex hierarchical structure, consisting of different layers of membership.

The membership structure of this speech community can be effectively represented using a figure influenced by the “Kachru-an” circles of English (Kachru, 1986).

C1: Speakers of RP

C2: Speakers with an accent that is heavily RP-influenced

C3: Speakers who claim to use RP as their target variety

Figure 6: Membership types in the RP speech community

The category of members in the inner circle composes the nucleus of the speech

community and consists of members whose pronunciation rarely deviate from the

pronunciation conventions recorded in dictionaries. Therefore, most of these speakers use the category of RP known as “mainstream RP” in the classification of Wells (1982), i.e. the most typical and least distinctive variety of RP. However, their speech may lack “informal and allegro” characteristics peculiar to the U-RP of the Southern British aristocracy. Yet, training required to achieve this level of performance goes beyond regular elocution training and includes exposure to the accent through education at an institution associated with RP or rigorous voice training, as in the case of broadcasters and theatre professionals. The majority

of persons in Table 5 belongs to this category of RP users. The second category of speakers

demonstrates the heavy influence of RP but their speech may contain identifiable departures from mainstream RP. Overall, their accent is a near-RP that approximates the phonological core of Standard Southern British English, mainly through elocution and speech training. This accent does not consist of sounds such as such as the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/. However, prosodic features of their speech such as stress (please see the transcriptions in Appendix E), rhythm and intonation approximate those of RP because they have received special speech

training where Arun Dias Bandaranaike, Clifford Richards, and Vernon Corea from the above list belong to this category along with many present-day English broadcasters in Sri Lanka, who have undergone rigorous voice training, are speakers of this accent.

There is a third category includes speakers who do not speak RP in reality despite their claim, but they could be considered a part of the community of RP users as RP is the target norm for them in learning English. These speakers also approximate the phonological core of RP to a certain extent, and their speech can be distinguished from the Standard Sri Lankan variety documented in Gunesekera (2005) because of the effect of Anglicisation. However, the contact between RP and Sri Lankan English results in a hybrid between the two accents. This accent corresponds to what Fernando (2006) identifies as “Dialect 1” which she considers to be the closest to “Standard (British) English pronunciation” (p.72). Speakers of this variety “pronounce the words ‘ability’, ‘obtain’ and ‘suspend’ as [əˈbɪləti], [əbˈteɪn], and [səˈspend]. Although the interviewees have not identified any users of this variant, it was observed that speech of some interviewees consists of certain characteristics of RP such as:

(a) the schwa; (b) centering and closing diphthongs; (c) the [w] and [v] difference; (d) voicing of the labiodental fricative; and (e) labiodental fricatives

The second and third categories seem to be in substantially wide use mainly because of the blooming elocution industry.

However, accents are more dynamic entities of which defining boundaries are being

gradually merged due to frequent contact among accents and dialects. For these reasons, it is difficult to stereotype the accents of the afore-mentioned categories and the actual use of RP within this community can be represented using a continuum, as proposed by Bloomfield.

Figure 7 demonstrates the deferring degrees of RP’s influence on the members of the afore-mentioned speech community.

Figure 7: Continuum of English accents in Sri Lanka

What is conceptualized as General Sri Lankan English is synonymous with the variety identified and documented in Gunesekera(2005:111-128) as “Standard Sri Lankan English” which is the most characteristically Sri Lankan accent used by the majority of fluent English speakers in Sri Lanka. It is recommended that the term, “Not-pot English” be replaced by a politically correct term such as the “Broad Sri Lankan accent”.

The present researcher suggests that the accent/dialect used by members of C2 and C3 categories can be collectively identified as Cultivated Lankan English. This term is a backformation of “Cultivated Australian English”, the term coined by Delbridge and Mitchell (1965) to refer to the Australian accent that remains the closest to British RP (the inherited variety) with minimal influence of the phonological features of the home-grown variety. Cultivated Lankan English vis-à-vis these second and third categories seem to be popular and in considerably wide use partly because of the thriving elocution industry.

6. The Prestige Re-cognized: Some Concluding Remarks

"We, here on our island, handling books printed in this world, and using its goods, had been abandoned and forgotten. We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World, one unknown corner of it, with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to the new."

-V.S. Naipaul-

This study has been an attempt to re-cognize the sociolinguistic prestige of Received

Pronunciation in contemporary Sri Lankan society. Overall, it is felt that the present study has adequately answered both research questions formulated in the first chapter, based on the findings of the survey, interviews and observations. The researcher has attempted to place his research findings on empirical footing by incorporating phonemic transcription and analysis into his methodology to identify the features of RP that are either found or missing in the RP speakers selected for analysis. As intended, the claim about the existence of an RP speaking community has been sufficiently attested. However, the phonemic analysis is in the preliminary stage since it is based on few samples, and the frequency with which those features occur in speech is not considered.

Based on the analysis and discussion in Chapters 4 and 5, this chapter recaps the key findings of the present research, and reflects on implications for future research.

6.1. RP’s current level of prestige

The majority of habitual English users in Sri Lanka acknowledge that there are many

varieties/accents of English, but it is doubtful whether they treat all accents of English

equally. Although English is not a majority language in Sri Lanka, an individual’s English accent is a potent marker of education and social background. It has a strong impact on person’s identity and personality. This finding reveals that the practice of accentism exists in contemporary Sri Lankan society, particularly vis-à-vis the English language.

Received Pronunciation (RP) continues to enjoy a great deal of sociolinguistic prestige in Sri

Lankan society while most habitual English speakers consider the home-grown SSLE to be the second best option. Common attributes to RP include clarity, confidence, correctness, discipline, comprehension, élitism, eloquence, exceptionality, formality, and professionalism.

While the respondents unanimously acknowledge the prestige of RP, their views remain

divided as to whether RP is suitable for Sri Lankans who choose to speak English. Despite the fact that RP is considered the most prestigious accent by the respondents, it is also claimed to be a less suitable variety for use in Sri Lanka. At the same time, some respondents believe that it is not possible for Sri Lankans to acquire RP “in its original form”. Therefore, it is claimed that they may end up speaking a fake/pseudo RP accent.

The attribution of both negative and positive personality traits to Sri Lankan users of RP

further reveals the ambivalent attitude towards RP; The increasing popularity of Sri Lankan English is considered a challenge to the prestigious position of RP in Sri Lankan society although only a few acknowledge the replacement of RP by the American accent; this is often discussed in the global sphere.

While RP is considered the most appropriate accent for job interviews, broadcast journalism and international communication, SSLE is considered more important for socialisation and day-to-day professional communication. This reflects the preference for RP as a public sphere accent, as opposed to SSLE as a private sphere accent.

The majority of respondents, who acknowledge that they mostly speak English with a Sri

Lankan accent, express their preference for RP as a target/target model of pronunciation, and consider RP to be the preferred variety for pedagogical purposes. Therefore, while Sri Lankan English has surpassed RP as the descriptive standard, i.e. the standard sanctioned by actual

use as opposed to RP’s continuous Role as the prescriptive/imagined standard, which is

accorded more sociolinguistic prestige.

6.2. Reasons for RP’s residual prestige

As far as the present study is concerned, RP is accorded more sociolinguistic prestige than other English accents in Sri Lanka because of (a) its association with a small but privileged and influential speech community; (b) its historical significance; (c) the (mis)nomer that it is “more original” model of English pronunciation; (d) its international recognition; (e) the consideration that adopting RP is a difficult or impossible achievement; (f) the promotion of RP as the only correct model of pronunciation in many Sri Lankan ELT contexts, particularly in the elocution industry; and (g) the claim that RP is the accent used by (at least a segment of) highly proficient English language users in Sri Lanka.

Most of the afore-mentioned reasons indicate that RP continues to be more prestigious,

because of how English and RP as well as language use in general continue to be perceived in linguistically Sri Lankan society. For this reason, Chapter 5 has primarily examined the residual sociolinguistic prestige of RP as a matter of language ideologies that are either implicit or explicit in the attitudes of the respondents. Subsequently, the discussion has focused on the British-orientation of the English language teaching industry in Sri Lanka that promotes RP as the most appropriate model for teaching English pronunciation.

Finally, the validity of the claim that RP is used by at least a segment of Sri Lankan users of English has been evaluated. The study has treated the supposed users of RP in Sri Lanka as a small speech community that share common socio-linguistic characteristics among each other, and despite its miniature existence, the community of RP users seems to encompass a complex hierarchical structure, consisting of different layers of membership. The inner circle of membership in this speech community consists of those who speak RP in its original form,

an endangered species. However, there is a category of speakers with a heavily RP-influenced

accent as well as a British-oriented form of English pronunciation that continue to be popular choices in contemporary Sri Lankan society.

6.3. Implications for Future Research

In creating a research space for the present study, the researcher has mentioned the impact of the Speak English our way programme and its potential impact on the linguistic landscape of Sri Lanka; particularly vis-à-vis the teaching of English is yet to be researched. It is vital to further explore the ideological nature of this state-sponsored campaign to promote a home- grown variety of English and its impact on the long cherished inherited standard (SBE) will also be pertinent. However, it seems to be too early to evaluate the impact of this programme.

While Sri Lankan English phonology has been identified and described, it is still waiting to be placed on empirical footing, based on a large-scale investigation of the phonemic inventory of this variety based on authentic speech. In this process, it will be vital to document phonological variation within Sri Lankan English, for example, how cultivated and broad Sri Lankan accents differ from the general Sri Lankan model of pronunciation.

It is also felt that the more radical differences between SLE and RP occur at suprasegmental level i.e. with regard to stress, intonation, rhythm etc. Research on Sri Lankan phonology has not focused on the differences between RP and SLE occurring beyond the segmental level. As also suggested by Gunesekera (2005:120), “more recordings and more narrow transcriptions are required to describe (these) difference(s) in detail”.

It is important to conduct pronunciation preference surveys among Sri Lankan English users to document their pronunciation preferences with regard to words of which the pronunciation is disputed; either because of the difference between SBE and SLE or because of the

emerging trend to Americanize the pronunciation of words such as “director”, among other


Although there is a burgeoning discussion on the importance of Sri Lankan English, the

absence of an authoritative reference manual of for English pronunciation for use in Sri Lanka is felt. In the absence of such a resource, RP continues to be the only documented norm for teachers, students, broadcasters and other professionals in linguistically demanding professions. Ideally, such a manual should be a consistent description of the cultivated and general models of Sri Lankan pronunciation rather than being a contrastive study of SLE and SBE models.


Practitioners in ELT could use RP as an effective tool in pedagogical contexts for re-shaping the prosodic aspects of the accents of Sri Lankans. Since RP continues to be admired in Sri Lanka, it will continue to create a space for elitism among those who have easy access to master it. Therefore, the most important measure is to democratize the practice of teaching English pronunciation by expanding it beyond the heavily British-oriented urban elocution/Speech and drama training circles to be used by a larger audience than the aforespeech community of a privileged few.


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B. Audio-visual Material:

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Elections [Web]. Available from

Waduge, A. (Performer) (2010). Spoken English in Sri Lanka - Aravinda Waduge - English Teacher [Web]. Retrieved from

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Appendix A: Phonemic Inventory of Received Pronunciation


The following letters have their usual values in English: b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z.

IPA Examples IPA Examples

ɡ g et, g o, g uard tʃ ch ip, ch in, na tur e

j u dg e, sol die r


si ng, ri ng, fi ng er


th in, th ick, streng th

d, th en, ba th e, la th er ʃ

sh e, s ugar, ma ch ine

ʒ plea s ure, vi s ion j y et, u se, b ea uty


IPA Examples IPA Examples



c a t, b a d, tr a p a bout, comm a



b e d, n e t, dr e ss k i t, b i d, h y mn

i happ y, glor i ous ɒ h o t, o dd, w a sh

ʌ d u g, r u n, str u t ʊ b oo k, p u t, f oo t


IPA Examples IPA Examples

ɑː c ar t, ar m, f a ther iː m ee t, s ee, fl ee ce

ɜː h er, n ur se, l ea rn uː b oo t, t oo, gr ou p

ɔː p or t, s aw, th aw


IPA Examples IPA Examples


b i te, m y, pr i ce f a te, d ay, br ea k p ie r, n ea r, w ea ry



br ow, h ow, m ou th g oa t, sh o w, n o b oi l, ch oi ce, b oy

ʊə t ou r, c u re, j u ry eə h ai r, d a re, v a rious

aʊə s our, c ow er, fl ou r aɪə f ire, b uy er, l ia r

Appendix B: Sample Questionnaire


Age: er: Male / Female First Language:

Use of English for

Socialization 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 00%

Use of English at Work:

0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 00%


Agree Neither Agree Nor Disagree


14. English Speakers from different countries use different varieties of English.

15. There are many accents/ pronunciation models with which English is spoken.

16. All English accents are equally correct and acceptable in Sri Lanka.

17. The accent of an English user has a significant impact on his identity and personality.

18. An English accent that is considered ‘good’ indicates a sound background.

19. An unintelligible accent could be a disadvantage to a speaker of English.

20. Persistent violation of the conventions of Standard English Pronunciation by speakers

of English creates a negative impression in formal situations.

21. Someone who speaks English with RP is often considered a highly proficient speaker.

22. The Standard British accent (RP) enjoys special prestige/ status in Sri Lanka.

23. RP is clearer and easier to understand than most other English accents.

24. RP is the best norm for reference if someone is unsure about the pronunciation of an

English word.

25. RP is losing its importance because Sri Lankan English is becoming popular.

26. RP is losing its prestige because American English is becoming influential.

A Standar S Other

merican d British tandard (Please Specify)


ri Lankan

27. Which English accent do you use?

28. Which accent of English would you prefer to use?

29. Which standard model of English Pronunciation is the most

suitable for communication in English among Sri Lankans?

30. Which standard model of English Pronunciation is the most

suitable for communication at places of study/work?

31. Which standard model of English Pronunciation is the most

suitable for job interviews ?

32. Which standard model of English Pronunciation is the most

suitable for broadcast journalism?

33. Which standard model of Pronunciation is the most suitable for

international communication in English by Sri Lankans?

34. Which standard model of Pronunciation were you exposed to as a

learner of English?

35. Which standard model of Pronunciation do you think is the most

suitable for teaching Spoken English for Sri Lankans?

Appendix C: Interview Framework:

Briefly explain your view/opinion about the three speakers who have just spoken.

Do you think RP enjoys special prestige in Sri Lanka as an accent of English?

Why do you think RP enjoys special prestige in Sri Lankan society?

What would you associate with a Sri Lankan who speaks with Received Pronunciation? Do you know Sri Lankans who use Received Pronunciation?

Can you name at least a couple of Sri Lankans who use RP?

Appendix D: Transcripts of Selected Speech extracts

Speaker A: Arun Dias Bandaranaike

ˈlʌkʃmən kʌdɪrəˈgɑːmə | ə truː sʌn ɒv ˈʃriː ˈlʌŋkɑː | | ˈlʌkʃmən kʌdɪrˈəgɑːmə | wəz bɔːn ɪndə ˈjiə ˌnaɪnˈtiːn ˈ tɜːti tuː ondə twelft ɒv ˈeɪprɪɬ | hi ekˈseld ɪn spɔːt æt skuːl ænd ˈleɪtə həd ə ˈbrɪɬɪənt ˌækəˈdemɪk kəˈrɪə ˈliːdɪŋ tu hɪs ˈbiːɪŋ æn ˈemɪnənt ˈlɔːjə | hi ˈentəd də pəˈlɪtɪkəl əˈriːnə ɪn ˌnaɪnˈtiːn ˈnaɪnti fɔːr ænd wəz əˈpɔɪntəd ˈmɪnɪstər ɒv ˈfɒrɪn əˈfeərz | ˈmɪstə kʌdɪrʌˈgɑːmə pəˈsweɪdɪd ˈmeni ˈwestən ˈneɪʃnz tu prəˈskraɪb dɪ elth iː thiː iː ənd spəʊk aʊt əˈɡenst də ˈpræktɪs ɒv də kənˈskrɪpʃən ɒv ˈtʃɪɬrən | ɪn əˌpriːsiˈeɪʃn ɒv də ˈsækrɪfaɪsəz ˈmeɪd baɪ ˈʃriː ˈlʌŋkəz ˈsəʊldʒəz | hi eˈstæblɪʃd ə ˌriːəˌbɪlɪˈteːʃən ˈsentər ænd ə spɔːts ˈtreɪnɪŋ fəˈsɪlɪti fə ˈjuːs baɪ dɪsˈeɪbld ˈsəʊldʒəz

Source: Bandaranaike, A. (Guest Speaker) (2008). A True Son of Sri Lanka [Web]. Retrieved from

Speaker B: Clifford Richards

| ænd | wel ɪn tɜːmz ɒv ˈlɜːnɪŋ | ˈaɪ teɪk teɪk tɜːn ˈbæk tu ˈpeɪdʒəz ɒv ˈhɪstri ənd ɡəʊ ˈbæk tə vɪdʒʌjə kɒˈrəjʌ | jʌŋ vɪdʒʌjə kɒˈrəjʌ dʒəst ˈstɑːtɪŋ hɪz ˈbrɔːdkɑːstɪŋ kəˈrɪər ənd meɪ bi hɪs ˈfɜːst deɪ ɒn ˈreɪdɪoː ænd hiz bɪˈhaɪnd də maɪk ənd tɪs ɪz hɪz ˈfɜːst ˌɒpəˈtjuːnɪti ɒn ˈreɪdɪoː | ˈsoː ˈwɒt ɪɡˈsæktli kæn ju rɪˈkɔːl dət deɪ dət ˈməʊmənt ˈwɒt ju felt ənd ˈwɒt ju ˈɡɒt əˈbaʊt ɪt ˈaɪ em ʃʊə dət wiɬ bi ɒv ɪˈmens ˈbenɪfɪt fə ˈpiːpl huː ə ˈwɒtʃɪŋ ɪˈspeʃəli prɪˈzentərz ənd ˈbrɔːdkɑːstərz |[] ˈaɪ əm dʒəst ˈkjʊərɪəs tə nəʊ ˈweðə ðɪs ˈpɜːsn wəz ət ðə dɑːns bɪˈkɒz wi həv ə ˈkɔːlər ˈɒnˌlaɪn | həˈləʊ jeːs |

Source: Richards, C. (Performer) (2012). Dr Vijaya Corea & Viran Corea Feat on Sunday Spice - part 02 [Web]. Available from

Speaker C: Noeline Hontor

| ɒn də sɪkst ɒv dɪˈsembə tuː ˈtaʊznd ten | ˈaɪ wəz rʌʃd tə də ˈhɒspɪtl wɪt ə sɪˈvɪə ˈstʌmək peɪn | ɪt wəz ɪkˈskruːʃɪeɪtɪŋ | ˈaɪ ˈaɪ dʒəst ˈkʊdnt ˈiːvn ɪˈmædʒɪn də peɪn | ˈeniweɪ | ˈaɪ wəz rʌʃt tə ˈhɒspɪtl ənd ˈdɒktəz dər ɪn di ɪˈmɜːdʒənsi ˈsekʃn | ˈdeɪ ˈsed dət ˈaɪ wəz ˈhævɪŋ stəʊnz ɪn də ˈkɪdnɪz | ɪt wəz kɔːld

ˈriːnl ˈkɒlɪk | ənd peɪn wəz ɪnˈtens ənd ˈdeɪ ɡeɪv miː ə ˈpeɪnkɪləz ənd də peɪn səbˈsaɪdɪd ˈɑːftər əˈbaʊt

triː ˈaʊəz | wel dæts ɔːl ˈdeɪ kəd ˈʃætə də stəʊn | ænd ˈaɪ wʊd bi ɔːlˈraɪt | də nekst ˈdeɪ ˈaɪ dʒəst slɪpt ˈɪntə ʌnˈkɒnʃəsnəs | ənd də ˈdɒktə ˈsed dət dɪs ˈhæpənd bɪˈkɒz ɒv də sɪˈvɪər ɪnˈfekʃn ɒv maɪ ˈkɪdnɪz | bɪˈfɔːr ˈaɪ bɪˈkeɪm ʌnˈkɒnʃəs | ˈaɪ ˈveri ˈvɪvɪdli rɪˈmembə də sɒŋ ɪn maɪ maɪnd ˈbjuːtəfl sɒŋ sʌŋ baɪ dɒn mɒj n | ənd ɒv kɔːs dʌn baɪ hɪl sɒŋz əz wel ɪts kɔːld ˈaɪ wl stɪl nəʊ dət ju ɑː ɡɒd | naʊ dɪs sɒŋ dʒəst ˈhɔːntəd miː dʒəst bɪˈfɔːr ˈaɪ ˈwent ˈɪntə ʌnˈkɒnʃəsnəs | ənd wel dæts ɔːl nəʊ ənd dæts ɔːl ˈaɪ rɪˈmembə |

Source: Hontor, N. (Performer) (2012). There is Hope [Web]. Retrieved from

Speaker D: Paikyasothi Saranavanamutthu

| wel ˈaɪ miːn ˈkʌpl ɒv θɪŋz fɜːst ənd ˈfɔːməʊst əz ju ˈsed ənd ˈaɪ miːn ˈaɪ θɪŋk ʌnˈtɪl fonsekʌ

ˈkændɪdəsi ði ɪˈlekʃnz siːmd ˈveri ˈmʌtʃ ə ˈwɜːk ˈəʊvə fə ði ɪnˈkʌmbənt | ði ɪnˈtrɑːns ɒv ˈdʒenrəl fonsekʌ həz kriːˈeɪtɪd ə kənˈtest ət ðə seɪm ˈtaɪm haʊˈevə ˈaɪ θɪŋk ðər ə ðəʊz huː fiːl ðət ðər ˈɪznt ˈmʌtʃ ɒv ə ˈdɪfrəns bɪˈtwiːn ðə tuː ɪn ðət ɔːl fə jɜːz | ðə tuː ɒv ðəm pɑːt ɒv ðə seɪm ənd ˈveri kiː ˈfɪɡəz wɪðˈiːn ðət reɪˈʒiːm | haʊˈevə | ət ðə seɪm ˈtaɪm | ɔːl əˈveɪləbl ˈevɪdəns ʃeəz ðət ðə fonseka kæmˈpeɪn ˈprɒmɪst ə tʃeɪndʒ siːmz tə bi ˈfɔːlɪŋ ɒn ˈfɜːtaɪl ɡraʊnd ɪt həz ɪn ɪt ɪts ˈhævɪŋ səm sɔːt ɒv ˈrezənəns əz fɑːr əz ɪˈlektərət əz ə həʊl z kənˈsɜːnd | ˈaɪ miːn | ðɪs ɪz ə hɪˈstɒrɪk ənd ˈveri ˈspeʃl ɪˈlekʃn | fə ðə fɜːst ˈtaɪm wi hɒv ə ˈkændɪdət huː ˈdʌznt hɒv ə ˈpɑːti əz sʌtʃ | ðɪs ɪz ðə fɜːst pəʊst wɔːr ɪˈlekʃn ɪn ˈeni sens | ɪt s ˈɡəʊɪŋ tə dɪˈsaɪd ðə ˈfjuːtʃə kaɪnd ɒv pəˈlɪtɪkl ənd ˌkɒnstɪˈtjuːʃnəl ˈɑːkɪtektʃə ðət kən kriːˈeɪt | səʊ ɪt s ə ˈveri ɪmˈpɔːtnt wʌn | ˈaɪ ˈpɜːsənəli wʊd hɒv prɪˈfɜːd ˈdɪfrənt ˈtʃoɪsɪz wɪðˈiːn ði: | ɪˈlekʃn bət ˈaɪ θɪŋk wi hɒv tə diːl wɪð wɒt wi hɒv ənd ˈðeəfɔː | ˈaɪ θɪŋk ɪts ˈɡəʊɪŋ tə bi ˈveri ɪmˈpɔːtnt dɪˈsaɪsɪv |

Source: Saravanamuttu, P. (Guest Speaker) (2010). Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on Upcoming Elections [Web].

Available from

Speaker E: Rajiva Wijesinha

| nəʊ ˈaɪ θɪŋk wɪə ˈveri ɪmˈpɔːtnt ət ðə ˈməʊmənt | ðə həʊl poɪnt əv ə piːs ˈprəʊses ɡɒt tə bi ə pəˈlɪtɪkl səˈluːʃn | ˈaɪ θɪŋk wi faʊnd ðət ðə ˈtaɪɡəz wə nɒt rɪˈspɒndɪŋ pəˈlɪtɪkli bət ˈfɔːtʃənətli pəˈtɪkjʊləli ðə lɑːst sɪks mʌnθs wiv həd ə ˈnʌmbər əv maɪˈnɒrɪti ɡruːps ˈtæmɪlz ɡruːps ˈwɪlɪŋ tə kʌm ˈɪntə ˈpɒlɪtɪks ənd teɪk ə ˌdeməˈkrætɪk pɑːθ | wel | ɪt həz ˈɔːlweɪz dɪˈtɜːmɪnd tə faɪt tə ðə deθ ɪf ðeɪ ˈkʊdnt ɡet ə

ˈseprət steɪt | ˈaɪ θɪŋk hɑːkənɪŋ fækt s ðət ˈmeni ˈtæmɪl ə ˈkʌmɪŋ ˈəʊvər ənd ðət ðə ˈweɪ tu əˈtʃiːv ðə

pəˈlɪtɪkl ɡəʊlz əv ˈtæmɪl z θruː ˈpɒlɪtɪks nɒt θruː ə ˈmɪlɪtri səˈluːʃn | wel | ˈaɪ θɪŋk ðə ɪn ə sens wəz ˈlɪbəreɪtɪd ˈɑːftə ði ˌæbrəˈɡeɪtʃn əv ðə ˈsiːsfaɪə bɪˈkɒz pəˈtɪkjʊləli bɪˈkɒz əv ði ɪmˈpɔːtns əv ˈwestən aɪˈdɪəz ðə vjuː həz sprʌŋ ʌp ðət ðə ˈtæmɪlz | ðə ˈtaɪɡəz ə ðə ˌreprɪˈzentətɪvz əv ðə ˈtæmɪlz | əz ju nəʊ ðə ˈtaɪɡəz həv kɪld ə lɒt əv ˈmɒdəreɪt ˈtæmɪlz bət ˈaɪ θɪŋk wʌn ˈveri ɪmˈpɔːtnt fækt ðə ˈmɒdəreɪt ˈtæmɪlz wl nɒt bi bɪˈtreɪd əˈɡen ɪf ðeɪ ə ˈwɪlɪŋ tə kʌm ˈɪntə ˈpɒlɪtɪks ðeɪ wl bi ɡɪvn ˈevri tʃɑːns ənd ˈaɪ həʊp ðeər ɪmˈpaʊəmənt | | wel ˈaɪ θɪŋk ðət spred | ˈaɪ ˈæktʃuəli ˈstʌdɪd ðə ˈnʌmbər əv eə straɪks ɪn ðə lɑːst ˌeɪˈtiːn mʌnθs sɪns ðə ˈtaɪɡəz keɪm bæk ˈhʌndrəd ənd ˈsevnti ˈerˌstraɪks |

Source: Wijesinha, R. (Guest Speaker) (2011). Hard Talk with Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, [Web]. Available from

Speaker F: S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike

wel | wen aʊə kʌntri bɪkeɪm ɪndɪpendənt | nætʃrəli də kwestʃən ərəʊz əv næʃnəl læŋɡwɪdʒ

suːpəsiːdɪŋ ɪŋɡlɪʃ əz di əfɪʃl læŋɡwɪdʒ əv də kʌntri | sɪnhəliːz | wi dɪsaɪdɪd əpɒn | əz di əfɪʃl læŋɡwɪdʒ bɪkɒz sevnti pəsent əv də piːpl əv sɪlɒn ɑː sɪnhəliːz | ət də seɪm taɪm | wi nætʃrəli rɪəlaɪzd ət də... ɚ də tæmɪl maɪnɒrɪti həd ɔːlsəʊ ə læŋɡwɪdʒ wɪtʃ wəz əʊld | veri rɪtʃ læŋɡwɪdʒ lɪtrətʃər ənd deəfɔː wi dɪsaɪdɪd ɔːlsəʊ dət wi ɡɪv ə riːznəbl juːs tə d,ə tæmɪl læŋɡwɪdʒ əz ə læŋɡwɪdʒ əv ə næʃnəl maɪnɒrɪti | ɪn sʌtʃ mætəz | əz edʒʊkeɪʃn | ɪɡzæmɪneɪʃnz | pʌblɪk sɜːvɪs ənd kɒrɪspɒndəns səʊ ɒn | wi fiːl dət dɪs ɪz də feərɪst weɪ də prɒbləm kəd həv biːn setld

Source: Bandaranaike, S. (Performer) (2010). S. Bandaranaike - Interviewed by the BBC [Web]. Available from

Speaker G: Sunila Galappatti

| ˈaɪ ˈdɪdnt ˈæktʃuəli ˈseɪ ˈaɪ wəz ə ˈdɪfrənt ˈpɜːsn | ˈaɪ wəz ˈveri ˈmʌtʃ ðə seɪm ˈpɜːsn bət ˈaɪ

ˈjuːst tə də ˈsʌmθɪŋ kəmˈpliːtli ˈdɪfrənt wɪtʃ ɪz ˈaɪ əm ə ˈθɪətə dɪˈrektər ənd ˈɔːlsəʊ ˈaɪ ˈjuːst tə kəˈmɪʃn ˈpleɪraɪts ənd ədˈvaɪz ðəm əz ˈðeɪ rəʊt ðeə pleɪ | ðət s ˈæktʃuəli ðə bʌlk əv ˈwɒt ˈaɪ ˈjuːst tə duː | ðɪs ɪz

njuː ˈθɪətər ɪn ˈlʌndən ənd ˈaɪ wəz wəts nəʊn əz ə <dramaturg> | ju kʌm əˈkrɒs ðə tɜːm bɪˈfɔː | wel ˈaɪ

həd nɒt ˈaɪðə | ˈaɪ wəz ˈsɪtɪŋ ˈraʊnd ə ˈdaɪnɪŋ ˈteɪbl wɪð sɪks frendz | ɔːl ˈlʊkɪŋ fə dʒɒbz | ɔːl sɔːt əv ˈriːsntli aʊt əv ðə ˌjuːnɪˈvɜːsɪti | ænd | ðə wəz ə dʒɒb ˈædvətaɪzd fər əˈsɪstənt drəmæˈt ɜːɡ ət ðə ˈrɔɪəl ˈʃeɪkˌspir ˈkʌmpəni | ənd wi ˈdɪdnt nəʊ ˈwɒt ɪt ment | ənd wi lʊkt ɪt ʌp ənd ðə wəz ə ˈdɪkʃənri ˌdefɪˈnɪʃn bət ɪt ˈdɪdnt ˈrɪəli help ˈmʌtʃ ənd ˈsəʊ ˈaɪ əˈplaɪd fə ðə dʒɒb ɪˈnɪʃəli əz ə dʒəʊk |

Source: Galappatti, S. (Guest Speaker) (2010). The interview - with Sunila Galappatti - p1 [Web]. Available from

Speaker H: Tracy Holsinger

| ˈaɪ həʊp tu ˈemfəsaɪz ˈsevrəl ˈθɪŋz ˈaɪ həʊp | ðə ˈθɪŋ wɪð ðɪs pleɪ z bɪˈkɒz ɪt s ˈveri ˌæləˈɡərɪkl ju həv tə teɪk frəm ɪt ˈwɒt ju wɪl | ðər ə ˈveri ˈmeni ˈθɪŋz ˈemfəsaɪzd | ðə kɒst əv ˈlɪvɪŋ | ðə aɪ diː piːz | <eemmm> dʒəst ˈhaʊ ˈwʌrɪd wɔːr ɪz | ənd ðə fækt ðət nəʊ wʌn ˈevə ˈrɪəli wɪnz ðə wɔː ðər ə ˈsəʊ ˈmeni ˌriːpəˈkʌʃnz | wi ər ˈemfəsaɪzɪŋ ˈfrendʃɪp | ˈemfəsaɪzɪŋ ðə fækt ðət ɪt ɪts ˌəʊˈkeɪ tə bi ˈdɪfrənt | ðə z ðɪs həʊl wʌn ˈneɪʃn | ənd ðə z həʊl njuː tuː kaɪndz əv ˈpiːpl ɪn ðə ˈkʌntri | ju nəʊ ˈpiːpl huː lʌv ðeə ˈkʌntri ənd ˈpiːpl huː dəʊnt ənd wʌn əv ðə

ˈθɪŋz wi ˈrɪəli ˈtɔːkt əˈbaʊt s ɪt ˌəʊˈkeɪ tə bi ˈdɪfrənt ənd stɪl bi wʌn ˈneɪʃn | bɪˈkɒz wɪə sʌtʃ ə ˌmʌltiˈkʌltʃrəl səˈsaɪəti ənd ɔːl əv əz həv ə pɑːst ˈrɪəli ˈstrɒŋli ðət ðəʊz ˈdɪfrənsɪz ʃəd bi ˈselɪbreɪtɪd | ənd ðət ɪt ˈʃʊdnt bi ə ˈriːzən fə ˈsʌmwʌn tə bi dɪˈskrɪmɪneɪtɪd əˈɡenst | ðeə ˈdɪfrənsɪz | ˈaɪ miːn ɪts ə ˌjuːnɪˈvɜːsl ˈstɔːri | ɪt s ˈəʊpən nɒt ˈəʊnli tu ˈædʌlts | ˈsɜːtnli tə ˈtʃɪldrən əz wel | wi ə dʒəst emfəsaɪzɪŋ laɪf ɪn ˈʃriː ˈlæŋkə ɪn ə ˈveri ˌæləˈɡərɪkl sens |

Source: Holsinger, T. (Guest Speaker) (2009). Interview with Tracy Holsinger | part 1 [Web]. Available from

Speaker I: Vijaya Corea

| wel maɪ ˈfɜːst ɪkˈspɪərɪəns bɪˈhaɪnd də maɪk wəz wen ˈaɪ ˈpʊt ˈmaɪkrəfon kiː ɒn ənd ˈwent ɒn tu ˌɪntrəˈdjuːs ə sɒŋ ðət ˈwɒznt tuː ˈdɪfɪkəlt bɪˈkɒz ɪt wəz ə ˈkwestʃən əv ˈmenʃnɪŋ ðə ˈsɪŋər ənd ðə sɒŋ | bət ˌaʊtˈsaɪd də ˈstjuːdɪəʊ | ˈaɪ həd ən ɪkˈspɪərɪəns fə də ˈfɜːst ˈtaɪm |

wɪtʃ wəz ˈæktʃuəli θrʌst əˈpɒn miː ˈaɪ ˈwɒznt jet ɒn də ˈpænl əv rɪˈliːf əˈnaʊnsə wɪtʃ ˈaɪ dʒɔɪnd ɪˈnɪʃəli bɪˈfɔːr ˈaɪ bɪˈkeɪm ˈpɜːmənənt ɒn də stɑːf bɪˈkɒz ˈaɪ wəz ət dət ˈtaɪm ˈæktʃuəli ˈɪntə ˈtʃɑːtəd əˈkaʊntənsi ənd ˈaɪ wəz ˈtʃɑːtərɪŋ ə kɔːs ɪn dət dɪˈrekʃn | bət wʌn faɪn deɪ ɪn də ɡʊd əʊld deɪz | də ˈjuːst tə bi rɪˈleɪz ɒn ˈreɪdɪəʊ naʊ dər ə ˈdɑːnsɪz | ju ˈkɒmpɪə dəm tuː naʊ ənd ˈreɪdɪəʊ ˈjuːs tə rɪˈleɪt laɪv frəm də ˈvenjuː

Source: Corea, V. (Guest Speaker) (2012). Dr Vijaya Corea & Viran Corea Feat on Sunday Spice - part 02 [Web].

Available from

Appendix E: Research Demographics:

Age: Gender:

15-30 52 52 31-45 54 54 Female 87 Male 103

46 -60 36 36 60+ 48

Geographical Origin (Province) First Language:

Western 84 Central 38 Sinhala 114 Tamil 47

Southern 26 Other: 42 English: 23 Other: 6

English Language Proficiency (Self-Evaluation)

Excellent 38 Satisfactory 47

Good 92 Unsatisfactory 13

Amount of English used for Amount of English used for Work: Socialisation:

-40% 8 40-50% 26

-40% 21 40-50% 64 50-60% 39 60% + 11

50-60% 66 60% + 39

A. Attitudinal Survey

[1] “I think, the first two speakers that we just listened to, spoke very clearly. I found it easy

to understand them, which is not the case with many native speakers. Sometimes, I am worried when I hear some native English speakers because I do not get a single word they speak” (R04, PC, 2012).

[2] “Of course, if you ask me to form an opinion about their accent, my opinion would be

quite positive” (R13, PC, 2012).

[3] “Well, I cannot see anything wrong in the way the first one and the second one spoke.

The most important thing is to be understood and they were very well understood.” [4] “Obviously, she comes from a cultured background” (R13, PC, 2012). [5] “she did sound very professional and that is partly because of RP.” (R20, PC, 2012) [6] “...and he knew exactly what she was talking about” (R15, PC, 2012). [7] Even a Britisher needs a higher level of discipline and culture to speak like this (R27, PC, 2012).

[8] “Actually, very few British people speak like this and people like them are a dying breed

there as well” (R24, PC, 2012).

Common attributes of RP therefore include clarity, confidence, correctness, discipline, comprehension, elitism, eloquence exceptionality, formality, and professionalism.

4.4.2. RP vs. Other English Accents in Sri Lanka

In the first stage of the interview, the interviewees listened to two other extracts, in addition to the RP speaker. One speaker has a Standard Sri Lankan accent while the other’s accent is non-standard. Most of the afore-mentioned characteristics could have been attributed to the speaker of Standard Sri Lankan English, who was a postgraduate student in the UK at

[9] As long as he is not putting it on, I would not have a problem, But I would be quite disgusted if he is assuming an accent (R12, PC, 2012).

[10] No Sri Lankan can acquire RP in its original form. Hence, what they contend with is a pseudo or imagined version of RP. These people are characterized by a sense of linguistic haughtiness and pomposity (R20, PC, 2012).

[11] Everyone I know laugh at people who have fake RP accents. (R26, PC, 2012) [12] As people associate prestigious accents with a sound educational and social background, a shrewd impostor may develop such an accent to mislead others (R11, PC, 2012).

In these extracts, respondents reveal the practical inability to use only RP for the purposes of Sri Lankans who choose to use English. In addition, it is claimed that many who have acquired RP through imitation or training end up speaking with an artificial accent that will be considered out of context and out of fashion in many situations. Extract[13] reveals that an adoptive RP speaker may sometimes place himself at a disadvantaged position with his ambitious attempt to imitate RP with the aim of impressing his audience because it might be misunderstood as an attempt to pretend or deceive others. If such individuals are found to be weak imitators, their effort will also be ‘ridiculed’. The implicature of this attitude is that RP has perhaps been elevated to the level of an unachievable goal for a learner of English, and ambitious attempts of acquiring it through imitation will be scorned.

However, contrary to such attitudes, many contemporary RP users have successfully acquired it by training or adoption. The strong opinion that it cannot be acquired in such a way perhaps reflects an internalization of the colonizer’s attitude that the colonized “can never succeed in becoming identified with the colonizer, nor even in copying his [colonizer’s] role correctly” (Memmi, 2003 ). The colonized can never match the coloniser’s level of refinement, and that such attempts only mimic the coloniser’s way of life Table 4 provides a

[13]. “Because those who knew English were also the most servile to the British and therefore the chosen ones to take over. English was a privilege and a weapon of control. It will not be yielded without a fight, (laughing)” (R11, PC, 2012).

Based on the findings of the survey and the interview, the present researcher intends to

organize his reasoning of RP’s residual prestige into three subsections. Most of the reasons provided by the interviewees indicate that RP continues to be more prestigious because of how it is perceived rather than what it is in reality. That is, the continued prestige of RP is probably due to not only how the respondents perceived it, but to also how they view English and language in general. In other words, prestige is largely determined by ideology. Therefore, RP’s residual sociolinguistic prestige will primarily be examined as a matter of language ideologies. Subsequently, the discussion will focus on the British-orientation of the English language teaching industry in Sri Lanka that promotes RP as the most appropriate model for teaching English pronunciation. Finally, it is vital to examine the validity of the claim that RP is (claimed to be) used by at least a segment of Sri Lankan users of English. This includes a linguistic analysis of selected speech samples. Prior to the analysis, Box 3 49

[14] “ because it (RP) is associated with the elite, and lots of educated public speakers use it” (R07, PC, 2012).

[15] “The fact that there aren’t many of them (RP Users) makes it (RP) more prestigious”(R21, PC, 2012)

RP is historically more significant than its counterparts are.

[16] “(RP) has been accepted in and out of the UK for a long time as a prestigious way of speaking English... so the situation is the same in Sri Lanka as well” (R24, PC, 2012).

RP is considered “ more original ” than other varieties of English.

[17] “ I think English needs to be spoken like English”(R13, PC, 2012).

RP is considered a more internationally recognized accent.

[18] “That is the most elegant form of English, which is widely accepted, and endorsed by many in the international community” (R13, PC, 2012)

RP is considered a difficult or impossible achievement for the majority of Sri Lankans.

[19] “No Sri Lankan can acquire RP in its original form. Hence, what they contend with is a pseudo or imagined version of RP” (R21, PC, 2012).

RP was, and is still, promoted as the correct model of pronunciation in many Sri Lankan ELT contexts.

[20] “It has a lot to do with the elocution industry and the machinations of English teaching industry epitomized by British Council” (R03, PC, 2012)

[21] “Well, RP is what was taught to us as English pronunciation when we went to school” (R13, PC, 2012)

[22] “My grandchildren take elocution classes where they are taught RP”(R03, PC, 2012).

RP is claimed to be used by a segment of highly proficient English language users in Sri Lanka.

[14] “When we write English, we stick to British English, no. So why should we bother teaching Sri Lankan pronunciation? It comes naturally to us and it will be dangerous to teach something that is not considered as correct by anyone other than those who actively promote it” (R22, PC, 2012).

[15] “I think it is more appropriate for a Sri Lankan to use an educated Sri Lankan accent while he is in Sri Lanka. Having said so, what I consider an educated Sri Lankan accent may be heavily influenced by RP...” (R20, PC, 2012)

[21] S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1899-1959) was the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Born to an elite Sinhalese Anglican family, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford and was called to the Bar in England. For more information, see: “S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike” Encyclopedia Britannica Online,, accessed 03 August 2011

[18]. “Yes some of my teachers at Royal College Colombo during the 1980's”

[19]. “Some of them have learnt it through exposure mainly through UK university education, or through training or imitation”

[20]. “Yes I do. Radio/TV presenters. Some in elitist literary circles. [21]. “Yes. Friends who have been to elocution training”.

[22] See Gunesekera (2005:43)

[23] Since Sinhala is a syllable-timed language where every syllable is considered to be taking the same time. For this reason, the average Sinhalese Speaker of Engish is not familiar with stress patterns for which reasons stress become an inconsistent feature in their speech.

[24] The findings vis-à-vis intonation is based on observations of the present researchers and therefore may be impressionistic. However, in the process of observation, I was influenced by the rules on intonation suggested in O’Conner (1967: 108-123)


1 By W.J.M. Lokubandara (1993) recorded in Gunesekara (2005: 34). A lawyer by profession, Lokubandara held a number of ministerial portfolios before his appointment as the Speaker of the 6th Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka.

2 Speak English Our Way Campaign is a project launched by the Presidential Task Force in 2010/2011 to

improve the quality of English language learning and teaching in Sri Lanka where the use of Sri Lankan English as the pedagogical variety was emphasised.

3 Professor of English, University of Pittsburgh; Professor McCabe is of Irish origin, and according to his biographers , lost his tenure at Cambridge in the 1980s for a radical move in the teaching of structuralism that led to an internal dispute in the Faculty of English.

4 Received Pronunciation is considered the standard form of pronunciation in British English. It is also an accent of English traditionally associated with the Home Counties, the Royal Family, the aristocrats, the BBC and the educated upper middle class in South Eastern England. However, RP is considered regionally neutral (Crystal, 2003)so that the regional background of an RP cannot be guessed; and since it is often associated with class and social identity, it is often termed as a ‘sociolect’.

5 I construe the meaning of ‘alive’ as a reference to the sociolinguistic prestige and wide use of RP in South Asian societies.

6 Chapter 2 of the present study features an overview of their seminal publications. 9


8 The words, attitude, perception, and practice should be understood in their colloquial meanings. 11

9 This observation seems to be true mainly of urban Sri Lanka.

10 The first approach relies on empirical research of language in social contexts, using sociolinguistics as a methodology, i.e. a way of executing linguistic research. The more interdisciplinary approach results in sociology of language, while the purely sociological approach uses linguistic data to explore society. Some linguists have been critical of the purely sociological approach, mainly accusing it of being more sociological than sociolinguistic; however, many sociolinguists, along with a majority of those who research language in postcolonial contexts, have adopted an approach that oscillates between the second and the third approaches.

11 The coinage of the term, Received Pronunciation is contested. It was previously attributed to Ellis (1874), but according to Fisher (1993), this term was first used by Walker (1791) in its sociolinguistic sense. Walker (1791) claims that the London pronunciation is “more generally received” than other regional pronunciations and accents (p.xiii)

12 With time, more politically correct appellations have emerged, for example: Standard British, Southern British Standard, General British.

13 A variety of British English supposedly originating in the counties adjacent to the estuary of the River Thames, and thus displaying the influence of London regional speech, especially in pronunciation (Crystal: 2003).

14 a definition that she later problematizes in the course of her study

15 The triangulation model used in this study is influenced by Hobson (2000). Hobson used questionnaires to obtain in-depth knowledge of the views of 300 teacher trainees and supplemented this with informal interviews of 20 trainees. Participant observation was also used to observe the teacher training process. He also used secondary data in his research. “In this way,” Hobson argues, “the use of several research methods enabled me? to check the validity of my? findings and produce a fuller and more accurate picture of teacher training courses” ( cf. Browne, 2006, p. 453)

16 The present researcher administered the survey at the BC cafeteria because it was more convenient and less disturbing to the library users.

17 see: Diane , D. (Producer) (2010). World Englishes [Web]. Retrieved from

18 see: Bellem., A. (Performer) (2009). Improve your pronunciation with bbc learning english [Theater]. Available from

19 see: Waduge, A. (Performer) (2010). Spoken english in sri lanka - aravinda waduge - english teacher [Web]. Retrieved from

20 This term derides the confusion of ‘O’ sounds in the English language , a frequent phonological error made by ESL users in Sri Lanka.

89 of 89 pages


The (old) emperor’s new clothes. Recognizing the sociolinguistic "prestige" of Received Pronunciation in contemporary Sri Lankan society
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Rusiru Chitrasena (Author), 2014, The (old) emperor’s new clothes. Recognizing the sociolinguistic "prestige" of Received Pronunciation in contemporary Sri Lankan society, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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