The double-edged sword of RP: the contrasting roles of a pronunciation model in both native and non-native environments
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The observations I make are largely based on my MA research, which is now being modified for the purposes of my Ph.D. I asked undergraduate students of English in England and the Czech Republic to evaluate seven voices ranging from the clearly regional to the unquestionably RP. The objective was to discover which sounds are considered to fall within the scope of RP by students in both countries, which approach avoids treating RP as though it were to include only the sounds ‘allowed by a preconceived model’ (Upton 2000: 78). Further, the respondents were asked to comment on the most salient features in the recordings: what they opted to comment on reveals a marked difference in the role of RP as a model accent in the given countries. Societies which lack a prestigious non-regional accent are often oblivious to the social connotations RP carries. Whilst it seems technically impossible to replace the model accent in all teaching materials all over the world, creating awareness of the fact that a rather outmoded model of RP found in many textbooks may not always be the best option is a necessary step towards ensuring that non-English speaking students are not only understood but that their speech will attract no adverse judgements.