"Talking Proper": The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol

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Clarendon Press, 1997 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 353 pages
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Pronunciation in Britain acts as an image of identity laden with social and cultural sensitivities. In Talking Proper Lynda Mugglestone studies the shifts in attitudes to languages (and in language itself) which, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, came to influence the rise ofmany still current shibboleths of English speech, whether in terms of the `dropped H' or the stated improprieties of the `vulgar' against the `educated' speaker. Showing how changing notions of acceptability were widely reflected in contemporary works of literature as well as those on language, sheexamines the role which accent came to play in popular stereotypes of speaker as well as speech; the `Cockney', the `parvenu', the `educated' or the `lower class', the `lady' and the `gentleman' all make their appearance in the language attitudes of the day, their social resonances regularlydeployed in prescriptive attempts to standardize the spoken language. The resulting notions about `talking proper' were firmly embedded in common nineteenth-century assumptions about gender, status, and education, laying the foundations for the Received Pronunciation of today and its distinctivesocio-symbolic values.

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About the author (1997)

Lynda Mugglestone, Fellow and Tutor in English Language and Literature, Pembroke College, Oxford.

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