Students’ attitudes towards RP and other British accents


Jarosław Weckwerth (Poznań)


This short paper will present the preliminary results of an experiment conducted at the School of English, Adam Mickiewicz University. The aim of the experiment was to examine the students’ attitudes towards RP vs. other British English accents, and to test their ability to recognise them. Thirteen one-minute recordings were played to 113 first- and second-year students from groups in which British English is taught as the model variety. Three of the recordings were judged to exemplify RP, six were recordings of young speakers from Cambridge with local features present to varying degrees, and four strongly accented recordings came from young speakers from Liverpool, Newcastle, Dublin and Belfast. The students were asked to use a scale from 1 to 5 to rate each voice for “suitability as a model for teaching English pronunciation”. In addition to that, they were asked to state what accent the respective speakers used. The most conservative RP voice was rated highest as a model. The ratings for the Cambridge voices were inversely proportional to the amount of local features present in the pronunciation of the speakers. The Northern and Irish voices scored low. The RP voices were also recognised as such for the most part. The recognition of the Cambridge voices was less successful. The remaining accents were hardly ever recognised “correctly”. It seems that there is a strong correlation between the types of materials used in phonetics courses and the students’ perceptions.


The Cambridge, Liverpool, Newcastle, Dublin and Belfast recordings came from the Intonational Variation in English database. The author would like to thank Esther Grabe for her kind permission to use them.