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Estuary English.pdf


									16                                                                                                   MÁLFRÍÐUR

Guðlaug Hilmarsdóttir

Estuary English
                                                         promise is also reflected in the linguistic makeup
                          Guðlaug     Hilmarsdóttir
                                                         of [Estuary English]. It comprises features of RP as
                          er í MA námi í ensku við
                                                         well as non­standard London English thus borrow­
                          Háskóla Íslands.               ing the positive prestige from both accents without
                                                         committing itself to either. This vagueness makes it
                                                         extremely difficult to pin [Estuary English] down
                                                         linguistically” (Altendorf 1999: 1).
                                                            One can hear this accent spoken, for instance, in
                                                         London, in the media, in schools, in the House of
  Guðlaug Hilmarsdóttir                                  Commons, and amongst influential people such as
                                                         David Beckham and Sir Michael Caine.
People want to make an impression with their accent
and the way they speak often depends on which            The Pronunciation
social group they wish to identify with. In Britain,
                                                         I analyzed David Beckham’s accent from listen­
and in most other cultures around the world, the
                                                         ing to two BBC interviews from 2004 as a way of
way people speak is often an indicator of their sta­
                                                         describing the pronunciation characteristics, for he
tus in society, their origin, and can even give hints
                                                         is doubtless one of the best known current speak­
as to their age, occupation, and so on. However,
                                                         ers of Estuary English. I will try to explain these
Estuary English has been spreading through all lev­
                                                         characteristics briefly. Also, when pointing out the
els of the social hierarchy, which might confuse the
                                                         characteristics of Beckham´s pronounciation, it is
interlocutor that has never met the speaker before.
                                                         important to note that he is being compared to
   Estuary English is a term coined by David Rose­
                                                         Received Pronunciation, which has been the stan­
warne in 1984. He described this accent as “[a]
                                                         dard in England.
variety of modified regional speech [...] a mixture
                                                            There were several common characteristics in
of non­regional and local south­eastern English
                                                         Beckham‘s pronunciation, such as lowered vowels,
pronunciation and intonation” (Rosewarne 1984).
                                                         G­Dropping, Glottalling, and more. Lowered vow-
This pronunciation has its origin around the river
                                                         els basically means that the position of the tongue is
Thames and its estuary, which means that most
                                                         lower than that of RP pronunciation. For instance, it
of the speakers live in the South­East of England.
                                                         is lower when pronouncing shining [a I]. The symbol
Various other people have been developing the                                                   T

                                                         next to [a] signifies the fact that it is lowered. Once
description by discussing the geographical spread
                                                         lowered, this vowel sounds almost like the [ I] vowel
of Estuary English.
                                                         in boy ['b I] and royal ['r I l]. G-Dropping means,
                                                                   c                ec
   Estuary English used to be understood as a devia­
                                                         as the name indicates, that Beckham drops the
tion from a standard, or rather, a deviation from
                                                         „­g“ in pronunciations such as ['hævIn] (having) and
Received Pronunciation, but things have turned out
                                                         ['krɑpIn] (cropping). Beckham also had Glottalling,
                                                         which means that the sounds of /p/, /t/, and /k/
                                                         were often replaced with a glottal stop. For exam­
The Speaker                                              ple, David Beckham said [a ?] instead of [a t],
                                                                                         Ω                  Ω

Generally, a speaker of Estuary English is described     [wI:?] instead of [wI:k], and so on. HappY Tensing
as being “young, middle (or upper) class, upwardly       was another characteristic of Beckham‘s accent. This
mobile, and – contrary to the belief of many news­       means that in the final position of words such as
paper columnists – in possession of a certain level of    actually and happy the sound has more of an “í”
education” (Haenni, 1999: 51).                           quality to it than in Received Pronunciation. Conse­
  While one group of speakers speak with the             quently, these words were pronounced ['æ?uli]
Estuary English accent so they will sound more           and ['hæpi] instead of ['æ?ulI] and ['hæpI]. L-
high­class, another group adopts it to sound less        Vocalisation means that [l] in words like foot-
high­class. As Altendorf noted “[t]his social com­       ball and always was replaced by the vowel [o].
MÁLFRÍÐUR                                                                                                                         17
Beckham pronounced football as [f ?b o] and always
                                   Ω   c                  to dissatisfaction with one’s own accent, and even
as [' oweIz] instead of [f tb :l] and [' lweIz] Last
    c                      c Ω             c              “linguistic self­hatred” (Trudgill, 1983: 209).
but not least, David Beckham also had TH-Fronting,           Also on this issue, one has to consider the sounds
which means that his [ð] and [θ] sounds were              that are deemed to be ugly do indeed exist in standard
replaced with [f] or [v] in words like through, which     pronunciations such as Received Pronunciation. For
Beckham pronounces as [fr :] and another, which
                              Ω                           instance, one can look at the sound [ɑ:] instead of
Beckham pronounces as [ n v ].                            [a ] or [a ] in pronunciations like Estuary Eng­
                           e v e                             eΩ            Ω

                                                          lish’s [ɑ:r] and [ɑ:?] instead of RP’s [a ] and [a t].
                                                                                                                  eΩ             Ω
  There were also other characteristics that only
appeared once or twice but were not counted as            The tense vowel [ɑ:] does exist in RP in pronuncia­
„main characteristics“, and will therefore not be         tions like [fɑ:r] and [kɑ:m]. Because of this, one may
dealt with here.                                          ask oneself, as Honey did in his book Does Accent
                                                          Matter?, “[w]hy should they suddenly become ugly
                                                          when they appear in another context?” (Honey
Social Aspects                                            1989: 64).
Wells predicted in 1982 that RP would loose its
power. There he noted that “[w]ith the loosening of
social stratification and the recent trend for people     The Future
of working­class or lower­middle­class origins to         Estuary English has through time affected the
set the fashion in many areas of life, it may be that     Standard English pronunciation, RP, and will con­
RP is on the way out.” Further on, he noted that          tinue to do so. The younger generation will still
before the end of the 20th century “everyone grow­        continue to look for role models, such as David
ing up in Britain may have some degree of local           Beckham, who will influence their lives, including
accent. Or, instead, some new non­localizable but         their pronunciation. In the same way, people may
more democratic standard may have arisen from             choose to speak Estuary English in order to sound
the ashes of RP: if so, it seems likely to be based on    young and urban.
popular London English” (Wells 1982: 118). This              David Beckham, actors, other media personali­
seems to fit the situation of Estuary English today.      ties, and the society itself is what defines attitudes
Additionally, various professionals have since then       and feelings towards what is “correct” for them at
noticed RP’s loss of power.                               that specific moment in time, not the institutional
   Received Pronunciation is the accent that for a long   terminology and description of how pronunciation
time has been on the top of the hierarchy, although       of the English language “should” sound. In the end,
its position is currently being threatened by Estuary     each individual of the community will develop his
English. According to Honey, there are three factors      or her own version of Estuary English, rather than
that have helped accents gain their position in the       trying to eliminate RP and the class discrimina­
social hierarchy. These are the breadth of the accent,    tion which prevailed towards non­standard accents.
how educated the accent portrays the speaker to           Consequently, the Estuary English pronunciation
be, and the geographical location of the accent. As       will emerge with RP to form an “’accent continuum’
the gap between standard and the non­standard             on a social scale” (Pétur Knútsson, private commu­
speech are narrowing, the division between classes        nication).
in England may also narrow.
   Estuary English is today gaining on Standard
English pronunciation, in terms of popularity and         References
prestige, especially among young people. However,         •	 Altendorf, Ulrike. „Estuary English: is English Going Cockney?“
                                                             Moderna Språk XCII (1999): 1­11. 12 June­July 2006. <http://www.
this pronunciation is still considered by some people>.
to be „just lazy speaking“ and „a slobspeak, limp and     •	 Haenni, Rudi. The Case of Estuary English: Supposed Evidence. Diss.
flaccid […]“ (Maidment 1994). The judgments made             Univ. of Basel, 1999. 23 June­July 2006. <http://www.phon.ucl.
on non­standard accents, such as those just men­          •	 Honey, John. Does Accent Matter? London: Faber and Faber, 1989.
tioned, are mainly based on aesthetic ideals, that is,    •	 Maidment, John A. „Estuary English: Hybrid or Hype?“ 1994. 11
on ideas on what is perceived as well­spokenness,            June­July 2006 <­
and “well­spokenness” often depends on the social         •	 Rosewarne, David. „Estuary English.“ Times Educational Supplement
hierarchy. These opinions are a matter of personal           (1984). 23 May 2006 <
opinion and can be harmful to the individual who             rosew.htm>.
                                                          •	 Trudgill, Peter. On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives. Oxford:
is being downgraded for his or her accent. This is           Blackwell, 1983.
also the case in many schools today, where teachers       •	 Wells, John C. Accents of English 1: an Introduction. Cambridge:
are trying to modify children’s accents so that they         Cambridge UP, 1982.

sound more “pleasant”. This modification can lead

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