RP example 11

RP11, taken from a BBC program, is a biologist. Private data is withheld for the sake of privacy. Like RP09 and RP10, RP11 almost has a complete set of RP vowels, as described by Jones (1932) and updated by Gimson (1962) and Wells (1982), but has unexpected pronunciations of THOUGHT and MOUTH.

Jones, Daniel. 1932. An Outline of English Phonetics. Cambridge: Heffer. 3rd edition.
Gimson, A. 1962. An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English. London: Arnold.
Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge, CUP. Vol. 2.

Listen first to this brief extract by RP11:
“… there are some mistakes, that people can make, that we can make, which are, correctable, later, there are, other mistakes, which are, irrevocable, and, one of the things about, uhm, worrying about the future of, of the world, is thinking about those, those things, which can never be undone …”

The recording was analysed by linear prediction, using formant tracking in Praat. The formant frequencies of vowels were collected from fully focused syllables, to avoid spectral variation due to vowel reduction. Vowels were sampled at the moment where vowel articulation was least affected by surrounding consonant articulations, selected by comparing VC and CV formant transitions, in order to minimize spectral variation due to coarticulation.

Figure 1. F1/F2 diagram for monophthong vowels by RP11

This diagram illustrates monophthong vowels by RP11. His formant frequencies are unusually high, indicating a shorter than average vocal tract. F1 for his unrounded open vowels TRAP, STRUT and BATH extends to 800Hz and beyond, F2 for FLEECE reaches beyond 2600Hz.

RP11 has all the documented RP sound changes. TRAP and STRUT were open. GOOSE was fronted (F2 extending to 1600Hz, and one instance at 2000Hz). Unlike RP09 and RP10, he tended to avoid preglottalized unvoiced stops, which is reminiscent of earlier RP. His THOUGHT was unsually close and [oː]-like, leaving a large gap of nearly 100Hz to LOT where the usual RP pronunciation [ɔː] would have occurred. This might be a rare example of a possible RP sound change described by Gimson (1962). It is also the regional Home Counties and London pronunciation.

Listen to these instances of the [oː]-like THOUGHT vowel by RP11:
“more, all, before, call, foresight”

Figure 2. The start (s) and end (e) zones for the diphthong GOAT (RP [əʊ]) by RP11.

This diagram illustrates the GOAT pronunciations, demonstrating RP [əʊ] rather than regional Home Counties or London SBE [aʊ], where the start F1 would have been higher and around 600-800Hz. There was one outlying instance starting at [a] that might have been a sporadic regional pronunciation, but it’s disregarded here as spurious in view of the small sample.

Figure 3. The start (s) and end (e) zones for the diphthong MOUTH by RP11. The dipthong starts at RP [a] (not regional [æ]). Surprisingly, the end is both [ʊ]-like (RP) and [ɒ]-like (atypical for RP).

This diagram illustrates the MOUTH pronunciations, demonstrating both the RP [aʊ]-like timbre and an unexpected [aɒ]-like timbre that seem to occur randomly in free variation. These [aɒ]-like pronunciations can hardly be explained as reductions as they are all taken from fully focused syllables. The start timbres, however, are typically RP [a].

First, listen to these instances of the MOUTH vowel by RP11 in the order they occur in the recording:
“about, outlook, power, downfall, outline, now, grounds, down”

Now listen to these instances of the MOUTH vowel by RP11 ordered according to rising F1 end values, from [aʊ] to [aɒ]:
“grounds, now, down, outline, outlook, about, downfall, power”

This is now a third example of an [aɒ]-like timbre for MOUTH in an otherwise typical RP accent. Once again, it might be a regionalism, but that would be purely guessing since nothing is known of this informant’s linguistic history, or it might be the first sign of a new sound change in RP. But three examples in a row is hardly idiosyncratic.

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