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English pronunciation in the British Isles

The English language is widely distributed over the globe. After Chinese it has the world’s largest speaking population – some 300 million, or, to put it in another way, one person out of every ten in the world. It is the official language of countries covering one fifth of the earth’s surface.

It is the language of trade and business. Three fourths of the world’s mail is written in English. English is at present the most widely studied language in countries where it is not native. It is the favored foreign language in the higher educational curriculum in such countries as Japan, Turkey and other countries. Five million people of the European countries speak English in addition to their native tongues.

English is not concentrated in one land mass. It is spread from the British Isles to the far corners of the earth. Besides Great, English is the mother tongue of the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. It is also used by the greater part of the population of Canada and the republic of South Africa.

Spoken English is not uniform geographically. It may vary from country to country, from district to district, or even from city to city. Though the variants of English spoken in different countries have many features in common, they differ from Standard English in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. This is due to the different conditions in which they developed after separation from British English.

The official literary languages of most countries are based upon a local dialect of the capital. Such is the case of Great Britain, France, and other countries. It is the London dialect that served the basis for the literary language of Great Britain, because as early as the 14th century London became the center of economy, policy, commerce and learning. At present there exist literary English of Scotland, Oreland, England and Wales. Each of these has their local dialects. There are nine principal dialects in Scotland, three in Ireland, thirty in England and Wales.

Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pronunciation in GB:

1) Southern English Pronunciation, or RP;

2) Northern English Pronunciation;

3) Standard Scottish Pronunciation.

Southern English Pronunciation is also known as Received Pronunciation (RP for short), or Standard English Pronunciation, or Public School Pronunciation, or BBC English, or King’s English.

Received Standard English is based upon the speech of the leading boarding schools and the older universities. But in Britain very many of the population begin their linguistic careers with one of the regional dialects as their sole speech. Because of the barriers to communication created by the diversity of the dialects, Englishmen, even Britons in general, readily accept the notion of a Standard English Pronunciation and they are willing to learn it through intensive effort, at school and elsewhere. Thus, although probably less than 10 % of the British population is original speakers of Received Standard English, it is universally accepted as desirable by educational authorities and by the mass of the population.

It is widely spread and is generally used by the more educated classes of Britain, it is spoken by BBC announcers and broadcasters. This type of pronunciation has been thoroughly described in books on the phonetics of British English. It is taught to foreigners as a second language. In our country this type of pronunciation is accepted as the teaching norm.

There is no necessity to describe it as it is being taught to our students.

Northern English Pronunciation is used by the people born and raised in Northern England, approximately between Birmingham and the border with Scotland. This type has peculiarities in the phonemic and intonational components. The most marked of them are as follows:


6-кесте – Northern English Pronunciation

dance /dɑ:ns/ /dans/ or /dæns/
once /wʌns/ /wuns/
sat /sæt/ /sat/
make /meik/ /mek/ or /mε:k/
speak /spi:k/ /spe:k/
live /liv/ /łiv/
looking /´lukiŋ/ /´łukin/
born /bo:n/ /bo:rn/
which /wiʧ/ /hwiʧ/
fondl /fondl/ /fonł/


NE is characterized by the so-called Northern drawl which is due ti its slow tempo. Form-words are pronounced distinctly. The level scale is most characterized of NE that is why it sounds rather monotonous.

NE was the standard speech in the 16th, 17th and at the beginning of the 18th centuries. This type of pronunciation was carried to America. That is why there are many features in common between American English and Northern English.

Standard Scottish pronunciation is widespread in Scotland. Its peculiar features in pronunciation are as follows:


7-кесте – Standard Scottish pronunciation

  RP Sc. E
sat /sæt/ /sat/
love /lʌv/ /luv/
time /taim/ /ti:m/
take /teik/ /tε:m/
house /haus/ /hu:s/
don’t /dount/ /do:nt/
clear /kliə/ /kli:r/
loch /lok/ /loх/
light /lait/ /liçt/
ready /redi/ /redi/ /r/ is rolled like Russian /p/
hard /hɑ:d/ / hɑ:rd/
why /wai/ /hwai/
evening /i:vniŋ/ /i:vnin/


Fall-rise and Rise-fall are often used in general questions. The sliding scale is common.



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