Accent Variation. Received Versus General American Pronunciation

Seminar Paper, 2015

8 Pages


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2.The reference accents
2.1 Received Pronunciation
2.2 General American

3.1 Rhoticity
3.2 Consonants
3.3 Vowels
3.4 Word stress
3.5 Intonation

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Today, English is one of the most important languages in the world, a language that is recognized and understood by people almost everywhere. There is no other language that is so widespread around the world being used as a medium of communication between people of different languages. One difficulty when learning English, however, is the significant variety of accents all over the world. Despite of the fact that there is such a wide variation, there are three standard accents, namely Received Pronunciation (RP) as the standard pronunciation of British English, the General American (GA) as the U.S. standard and the accent spoken in Australia, the General Australian. The following analysis focuses on the standard accents Received Pronunciation and General American.

This term paper aims to carve out the differences and similarities between the pronunciation of Received Pronunciation and General American by surveying Svartvik and Leech´s quote: „...if we study the main standardized varieties of American English (AmE) and British English (BrE), we come to the conclusion that in pronunciation they are clearly different, but generally mutually intelligible“. (Svartvik&Leech, 2006:157). A close analysis will reveal to which extent one can agree with their statement.

Firstly, general information about the two accents will be presented. Secondly, a comparison of RP and GA with regard to rhoticity, consonants, vowels, word stress and intonation examines phonological similarities and differences of both accents. A final conclusion sums up the findings with reference to the quote.

2.The reference accents

Before the reference accents will be compared with regard to phonological aspects, general information about both accents will be presented.

2.1 Received Pronunciation

Received Pronunciation, also called BBC English, Oxford English or the Queen`s English, is primarily correlated to the south-east of England. However, one could not only consider RP as a regional accent but as an accent that is spoken all over the UK, even all over the world. Nowadays, we classify RP as a social accent, associated with the upper-middle classes and upper classes. That does not mean that RP is a homogeneous accent. There are some subgroups of RP like Conservative RP, which is spoken by many older people, Mainstream RP and Contemporary RP, mostly spoken by younger people. (cf. British Library)

2.2 General American

According to Wells, there is no local accent in the United States that shows a similar relevance for the whole country like RP does in England. Except for some eastern or southern states, the term 'General American' has been applied to the two-thirds of the U.S. population who do not have a local accent. (cf. Wells, 1982:118) The accent is widely used in the media. Therefore, many people call it 'Network English'. Furthermore, in all places where English is taught as a foreign language and where American English is the standard model, GA is the accent procured. Compared with the status of RP in Britain, GA is not as correlated to the social class of people who speak this accent. In addition to that, GA is apparently not as delineated and marked off as RP what leads to more flexibility in GA. (cf. Schmitt, 2011:33)


Svartvik and Leech stated that „...if we study the main standardized varieties of American English (AmE) and British English (BrE), we come to the conclusion that in pronunciation they are clearly different, but generally mutually intelligible“. In the following, the main phonological similarities and differences between RP and GA regarding rhoticity, vowels, consonants, stress and intonation will be examined.

3.1 Rhoticity

One of the most prominent difference between English and American speakers is the phonotactic distribution of the consonant /r/. Thus, 'rhoticity' is an important aspect when comparing the two accents. An accent is rhotic when /r/ is pronounced in all instances. In contrast, an accent is non-rhotic when /r/ is only pronounced before and between vowels. As an example, the word „card“ is pronounced as [kard] in a rhotic accent, but as [ka:d] in a non- rhotic accent. RP is a non-rhotic accent because it phonetically realizes /r/ only before vowels, not at the end of words and also not between vowels and consonants, whereas GA is a rhotic accent because /r/ is pronounced in all positions. (cf. Kortmann, 2005:261)


Excerpt out of 8 pages


Accent Variation. Received Versus General American Pronunciation
Phonetics and Phonology
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ISBN (eBook)
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phonetics, phonology
Quote paper
Funda Sengül (Author), 2015, Accent Variation. Received Versus General American Pronunciation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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