19th century RP

Here are seven examples of 19th century RP (the accent of RP-speaking people born in the 19th century). They are, ordered by birth year:

RP12: Robert Baden-Powel 1857-1941; Baron Baden-Powell; army general, scout movement; gramophone record 1937
RP06: Stanley Baldwin 1867-1947; Earl Baldwin of Bewdley; politician, industrialist; political broadcast
RP13: Neville Chamberlain 1869-1940; politician; BBC broadcast;
RP08: Sir Richard Paget 1869-1955; barrister, scientist, British Deaf Association; no recording available, vowel diagram reconstructed from published sources
RP01: William Somerset Maugham 1874-1965; author; adopted RP (first language French); a recorded interview
RP07: Daniel Jones 1881-1967; phonetician, professor; educational material on gramophone record
RP02; Harold MacMillan 1894-1986; Earl of Stockton; politician; broadcast speech

This is essentially the RP described by Henry Sweet (1877) and Daniel Jones (1932), updated by Gimson (1962) and Wells (1982).. But the accent was already undergoing change before and during this period, although not always recognised until later in the 20th century. Possible changes to STRUT, TRAP, THOUGHT, GOOSE, FACE, GOAT and MOUTH are examined in the next pages.

Gimson, A. C. 1962. An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English. London, Arnold.
Jones, Daniel. 1932. An Outline of English Phonetics. Leipzig, Teubner. 3rd edition.
Henry Sweet. 1877. Handbook of Phonetics. London, Macmillan.
Wells, J. C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge, CUP. Vol. 2.

Listen to this brief extract by Robert Baden-Powell:
“… as a boy I was a sort of, sea scout, what I learnt then, helped me ever afterwards, in my life, I became a soldier, and did war scouting, and jolly exciting it was, in the army, I learnt, learnt, service, that is, doing your duty, without asking the reason why …”

Listen to this brief extract by Stanley Baldwin:
“… the country, is face to face, with a grave crisis, and the simple issue is this, whether the, electors, at a time, of grave, national, crisis, a time of national emergency, are going to entrust the government of the country, to the party, which brought us, to the verge of ruin, and then, ran away …”

Listen to this brief extract by Nevil Chamberlain:
“… but these plans need your help, you may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war, or the maintenance of the life of the people, in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns …”

Listen to this brief extract by W. Somerset Maugham:
“… sometimes, an experience of my own, has gi given me an idea, and I have invented the incidents to fit it, but more often, I’ve taken, people I knew, slightly or in(t)imately, and used them as a foundation for characters of my own invention …”

Listen to this brief extract by Daniel Jones:
“… I did a thing the other day, that I’ve never done before, let me see, when was it, it was last Tuesday week, no, it was a week last Wednesday, yes that’s right, ten days ago, I went down to Southampton docks, to see my partner off to New York on the Aquitania, one of our largest liners you know, he’s going to be away for at least three months, and I don’t expect him back till the end of August …”

Listen to this brief extract by Harold MacMillan:
“… my tour, of Africa, of certain parts of Africa, the first ever made by a British prime minister in office, is now alas, reaching it’s end, but it is fitting, that it should culminate, in the Union parliament, here, in Capetown …”

All the recordings were found on the web, mostly from the BBC program archive or the British Library. All had been subjected to lossy MP3 compression at some time during their lives and were saved at once in WAV format to prevent further degradation. They were analysed using Praat, by LPC formant tracking where possible, by measuring directly on the spectrogram where that failed, or by measuring formant peaks on FFT slices. Some instances of lower back vowels had to be abandoned and there are consequently fewer examples of FOOT, THOUGHT or LOT in some cases. Vowel formant frequencies were collected from fully focused syllables, to minimize 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, to minimize spectral variation due to coarticulation. Instances for each phoneme are enclosed in ellipses, fitted freehand, ignoring outliers (that are plotted and can be seen).

The spectral criterion for an open vowel is F1 higher than about 600 or 650 Hz, depending on the individual speaker, even higher for shorter vocal tracts. This would be achieved with a low pharyngeal constriction that is maximally wide together with a large mouth-opening (Wood 1979).

Wood, Sidney. 1979. A radiographic analysis of constriction locations for vowels. Journal of Phonetics 7, 25-43.

The diagram for Daniel Jones (Figure 6) is compiled from two recordings,  teaching material made in 1929 and the commentary to the 1956 cardinal vowel record. Przedlacka & Ashby (forthcoming 2018) have published a third recording made in the 1930s. Their result (their Table 2 and Figure 1) is comfortably similar.

Przedlacka, Joanna & Michael Ashby. Forthcoming (2018). Comparing the Received Pronunciation of J. R. Firth and Daniel Jones: a sociophonetic perspective. Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Figure 1. F1/F2 diagram for RP12 Robert Baden-Powell.
Figure 2. F1/F2 diagram for RP06 Stanley Baldwin.

Figure 3: F1/F2 diagram for RP13 Neville Chamberlain

Figure 4. F1/F2 diagram for RP08 Sir Richard Paget, based
on data in his Human Speech, 1930, London, Kegan Paul
(formants reported as frequency ranges).

Figure 5. F1/F2 diagram for RP01 W. Somerset Maugham.
Figure 6. F1/F2 diagram for RP07 Daniel Jones, combined
from an educational recording (1929) and the commentary
to the 1956 cardinal vowel recording

Figure 7. F1/F2 diagram for RP02 Harold MacMillan.