Mark Hancock’s Review of English after RP: Standard British Pronunciation Today written by Geoff Lindsey (2019)

Mark Hancock’s Review

If you teach English pronunciation, you will know that most text books present a model which claims to be either standard American or standard British. The latter is often referred to as RP (Received Pronunciation), and is usually represented by a set of phonetic symbols chosen over half a century ago by A. C. Gimson. Geoff Lindsey makes the point that if a person speaks in exactly the way that these symbols indicate, they will sound comically old-fashioned. His new book English after RP sets out to describe they ways in which standard British has evolved away from RP. He suggests alternative phonetic symbols which would be more appropriate for modern Standard Southern British English, but he also recognises that the traditional set will not be changed overnight, given the number of text books still using them. If we are to stick with the symbols currently in use, we will need to avoid taking them at phonetic face value – the symbols no longer accurately describe the facts.

Dharmendra Sheth’s response

Thank you, Mark, for posting this thought provoking review of Lindsey’s book. Let me put in my two cents worth but with the caveat that I have not got hold of the book yet. In fact, after reading your review, I am more than eager to read the book.

Well, according to Lindsay, “pronunciation is moving in the direction of spelling.” He has also given an example of “hurricane, where the second syllable is increasingly likely to rhyme with cane, rather than having the vowel reduced to schwa.” But I feel that speaking-as-spelled might happen for a tiny percent of words in English. Why? Because even a non-native speaker of English like me learn right from the outset that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the letter and the sound. I distinctly remember my school teacher asking us to repeat after him the letters in isolation and the words containing them; for instance, a – apple, a – ask, a – ability, a – all, etc.

He also suggests an alternative set of phonetic symbols. I will have to read the book to make informed comments. However, let me just present our situation here in India. For the last decade or so, most teachers and learners of English have easy access to the Internet, and via that, to online dictionaries from international publishers such as Cambridge and Oxford. Most Indian learners of English today (intermediate and above), for instance, do not ask their teachers how a word is pronounced. They find it out on their own. It’s a click away. And the current IPA symbols are deeply ingrained in learners’ psyche. I believe the same is the case where English is not the first language. That means that for majority of speakers of English in the world today, the model pronunciation is what such dictionaries suggest. Introducing a new set of symbols will create an extremely difficult situation since the IPA symbols are so widely used in all fields of knowledge.

Marks suggests (is that Lindsay’s view also?) that “we don’t necessarily need to aim for any standard model.” Well, that argument is untenable at least in ESL/EFL situations. If we don’t aim at a model, it may affect mutual intelligibility. The importance of a uniform model cannot be stressed enough for a multi-lingual country like India where people in every state have a distinctly different style of speaking EnglishNo-model for language learners (and teachers) may end up in utter chaos.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Mark Hancock’s response

Hi Dharmendra
Thanks for your very interesting observations.
You may be right that only a few words will drift in the direction of spelling-pronunciation – only time will tell. I definitely do sense however that there is a trend away from reducing every unstressed vowel to schwa, as Lindsey claims. As regards English as a Lingua Franca, many words may, over time, drift in the direction of the spelt form. I try to stop my students saying ‘pear’ to rhyme with ‘ear’, but who knows, in the end that trend may prevail just from the sheer weight of numbers of people using the English they’ve already got, instead of always being in the position of learners of the languag.
I agree with you that changing the set of IPA symbols we use for teaching purposes would be a difficult upheaval. It may also be pointless, given that we don’t necessarily require the precision of phonetic symbols – phonemic symbols are quite sufficient. We only need precision if we are teaching a very specific accent – training actors, for example – or spies!
Your last point about models: I think there is probably a default model in every classroom, namely the teacher. This has long been the case, and I don’t think is necessarily a problem – I don’t think mutual intelligibility depends on everybody having the same accent (This is my opinion by the way, not Lindsey’s). However, I have no knowledge or experience of the situation in India; there may well be good reasons to aspire to conformity there which I know nothing about. I am aware, for example, that there is a pressure for accent conformity within the United States, leading to the existence of many schools and tutors that advertise so called ‘accent reduction’ courses. Perhaps this amounts to the difference between ‘English as a Second Language’ (which tends to stress accent conformity) and ‘English as a Foreign Language’ or ‘English as a Lingua Franca’, where accent diversity is a fact of life.


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Dhunki, a Gujarati film, Review by Dharmendra Sheth

Hi Gujarati movie lovers,

We watched a nice Gujarati film Dhunki this morning. Very good young actors, interesting music and lyrical, meaningful songs; no unnecessary fighting, tear-jerking and vulgarity.

The film successfully portrays the struggles of a middle class boy while trying to start his own business following his Dhunki (=passion), and the subsequent upheavals in his relations with immediate friends and family. Many like me will relate to his journey towards becoming an entrepreneur. I won’t tell you much about the story because I want you to go to the cinema and watch the movie.

The end could have been less abrupt and a little more positive.

Pratik Gandhi stole the show with excellent acting.

My rating 4/5.

Review by Dharmendra Sheth
Gujarati Movie Dhunki
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Everyone is an expert!

Q: If everyone is (or wants to be or considers him or her) a trainer, coach, leader, counsellor, freelancer, influencer, digital marketer or entrepreneur, where will the companies get employees from?
A: No idea.

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A person or an entity who will be a meme on the internet forever. Most of the famous people or rather obvious ones are already became memefied (Obama, Trump, Putin). That doesn’t mean you cannot be memefied too. You can be memefied overnight if you play your cards right. Source

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IELTS Edge Workshop on 21 July 2019 — Details

A 3-hour workshop to learn how to prepare for IELTS and get the desired band score

Format and Assessment Criteria for General and Academic Modules,
How to improve Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing
Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation

Day, Date and Time
Sunday, 21 July 2019, Morning 9 to 12

Fluentlingua, UG 46, Ascon Plaza, Behind Bhulka Bhavan School, Anand Mahal Road, Surat (Gujarat) 395009

Rs. 500/-

How to register
Please click the link “Register” on www.fluentlingua.com and fill in the form, and make the payment in advance–cash, cheque, PayTm (9825442418) or bank transfer.
No on-the-spot registrations, please.

Bank details for online payment
Account Holder: Mr. Dharmendra Rameshchandra Sheth
Account No: 03881000053595 Bank: HDFC bank Branch: Adajan
Branch Code: 000388 RTGS/NEFT IFSC: HDFC0000388

Do please spread the word about this workshop! Thank you.

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The Sounds of English

Hello everyone,

Pronunciation matters! Yes.

English Pronuciation plays a vital role in one’s career. Your speech is your identity. English being a language of commerce, industry and education across the globe, it is imperative that you improve your pronunciation in English.

For non-native learners of English, it is important to adopt a model and then stick to it. This video is for those non-native learners or users of English who want to learn the phonemic transcription used in most dictionaries in the world, thereby improving the intelligibility of their speech.

Ideally, we should work on Sounds, Word Stress, Rhythm and Intonation. However, this video is only for the sounds of English.The following information may help you.

Standard British Pronunciation (called RP)

Total 44 Sounds
1) 24 Consonant Sounds
2) 20 Vowel Sounds (12 pure vowels + 8 diphthongs)

By the way, I am not a native speaker of English. So treat my pronunciations and suggestions as guidelines, not rules. My aim is to sensitise learners to this important aspect of speech.

Best wishes,


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