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RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 1

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Shes the first person I turn to on a film. Well, after the caterers.

Penny Dyer on a CD What more could I want?


First published 2007

Methuen Drama
A&C Black Publishers Limited
38 Soho Square
London W1D 3HB

ISBN 9780713685046

CD 2007 Gwyneth Strong and Penny Dyer

Booklet 2007 Penny Dyer

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form
or by any means graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems without the
written permission of A & C Black Publishers Limited.

Extract from Mammals Amelia Bullmore 2005. All rights whatsoever in the
work are strictly reserved and applications to perform it etc., must be made
in advance, before rehearsals begin, to Peters, Fraser & Dunlop,
Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA.

Extract from After Miss Julie Patrick Marber, reproduced by permission of Alan
Brodie Representation.

Recording and editing by Videosonics

Huge thanks to the wonderful Sam Barnett, Denise Gough, Paterson Joseph, Adrian
Scarborough and Sheridan Smith for taking part!! To all the Directors and Actors who
have endorsed this product so generously and to the anonymous 'Soundbites', for
lending your voices and stories. Graeme, our long-suffering Sound Editor for his patience
and support. Katie, our Editor, for deciphering the squiggles ... and Suzi, our Publicist. To
Gresby Nash, for helping us devise the Demo. To Isobel Overton, Joan Washington and
Julia Wilson-Dickson for teaching me (Penny) and to our lovely husbands, Nick and
Jesse, for not leaving us, but holding us up.
RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 3

cd contents

1 General Introduction: Gwyneth and Penny 1 min 47 secs

2 What is RP? Working on La Pucelle

from Henry VI Part 1 and
Mammals by Amelia Bullmore 15 mins 49 secs

3 Female speaker: General RP 1 min 43 secs

4 Discussing the soundbite and some of the

features of the accent 10 mins 54 secs

5 Text reading by Denise Gough: Mammals by

Amelia Bullmore 4 mins 22 secs

6 Male speaker: Marked RP 2 mins 03 secs

7 Discussing the soundbite and some more

features of RP 4 mins 47 secs

8 Female speaker: Marked RP 1 min 22 secs

9. Working on the text: After Miss Julie

by Patrick Marber 14 mins 50 secs

10 Text reading: After Miss Julie by

Patrick Marber 1 min 19 secs

11 Practice sentences and more practice

sentences 5 mins 30 secs

TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 64 mins 26 secs

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introduction to rp
The accent of Received Pronunciation RP provides a benchmark or reference point
for all other varieties of spoken English. This standardisation of English speech is
especially relevant for the Actor or drama student, as RP offers a springboard into all
regional dialects and foreign accents and helps build a vocal foundation block for
It is essential for the modern Actor to recognise that the social accent of RP is always
on the move. Like all other accents it is alive and breathing, constantly modifying to
suit current trends and influences in language changes in idiom (manner of speech),
syntax (word order) and choices of vocabulary (the words themselves). In fact, as the
DIALECTS of language shift, so do the ACCENTS and for as long as words are being
shaped by human mouths, their sounds cannot remain static.
For 150 years of fairly recent modern history, during the rise and fall of the British
Empire and the two World Wars and their aftermath, (The Great War 19141918 and
The Second World War 19391945), a complex, refined accent rose through the ranks
of speech, upwardly modifying. This mode of pronunciation became as easy to define,
label and grade as did the occupation and status of the speaker. The phonetician
Daniel Jones initially referred to this emerging sound as Public School English. Other
defining titles included Oxford English, Cultured English, Kings/Queens English,
Prestigious and even Posh English. The final stamp of approval came in the 1920s,
when the writer, Nancy Mitford author of Love in a Cold Climate, introduced the term
RP Received Pronunciation. The accent was earmarked as being a mode of polite
and refined pronunciation to be accepted and approved by the educated middle
class society of the day. The accent of RP became a meal ticket to success and social
standing and it came in two flavours Marked RP was the accent of the aristocracy
and upper classes and Unmarked RP was the accent of the professional classes and
anyone who tried to emulate it.
This was a period of time when England was a Country where everyone knew their
place. RP was worn by the speaker like a uniform, with a disciplined delivery of thought
before comment that flagged a rigidity of form and style. There was an economy of
sense over sound, reining in the emotion and imparting the facts, by moving rapidly
from cut-glass T to T. The Actor can concentrate on skipping from Consonant to
Consonant, as if there were no Vowels in the words at all and notice how unemotional
the voice becomes. Vowel sounds particularly the diphthongs had their wings
clipped, aided by a hold in the facial muscles that indicated that all was well, even if
it wasnt. This patriotic denial of emotion has been termed a lateral fix or stiff upper
lip syndrome and presents a projected detachment, more silver than gold in its
resonances. As an exercise, the Actor can apply a face mask, wait until it hardens and
then work through this vocal boundary with breath and dexterity of tongue tip.
Imagining a favourite smell can help lift and open the throat and soft palate muscles,
to increase the dimension of tone.
This is NOT the accent of modern RP. What we are experiencing today and over the
last 25 years or so, is a modifying away from a more traditional, social sound towards
a more regional base. The tongue is dropping lower in the mouth, the Vowels are
lengthening and widening and the Consonants, especially final ones, are softening or
being lost altogether. The pace of life is speedier and the various modes of
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communication more visual. Conversation is no longer such an art form. Whatever

social connotations RP had in the past, the modern Actor needs to recognise this later
model as an essential tool to acquiring clear, communicative sound, which can be
diluted or moulded in accordance with the demands of language, character and
imaginative choice. The roots are there, just as they are with all other accents, and an
Actor can listen to the middle generation of speakers people in their 40s - as a reliable
Modern RP should never be considered as lofty or insurmountable, which forces
the Actor to climb into it, often placing the pitch of the voice unnaturally high, in an
effort to succeed. One of the best ways to own an accent is to speak the text aloud
and repeat each phrase twice, once in your own accent and then in RP. You begin to
notice the similarities as well as the differences. The term social can be thought of as
friendly and communicative and refined as the opposite to extreme subtle an
actual physiological release within the mouth cavity and a shift of the muscular memory
RP has a stress prominent rhythm and as with Shakespeare, the ACTOR needs to
PICK out the WORDS that COMMUNICATE the MESSAGE. Placing vocal weight and
length on operative words is a main means of emphasis in modern speech, but the
Actor can explore pitching important words up or down from the central note, like
picking fruit from a tree and dropping it in the basket or gentle slides of inflection on
significant words and phrases. Also consider the style of statement, especially when
asking a question. Some questions never beg to be answered!
Lastly, modern RP works off the front of the face and the tip of the tongue. Medial
Ts maybe replaced by Ds, with the pace of modern life and the influence of American
film and television, but the CHOICE of using a T can always be the Actors secret
weapon! Sometimes just speaking the text at an intimate level, makes you realise the
usefulness of the tongue tip sounds for clarifying the sense.
The archetypal British film Brief Encounter was made in 1945 and the RP accents of
Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson mirrored the exactitude and fortitude of a nation
under stress. The play After Miss Julie is written in an altogether freer and more modern
vernacular and leads the Actor (playing Miss Julie) to find a taste of the period RP, like
stepping out of uniform and onto civvy street.
The Actor needs to find a sense of Miss Julies familiar environment a social-
scape so to speak. The confident and projected tones of high ceilings, thick walls and
huge expanses of air and space. The ease of plush furnishings, as kind to the voice as
to the eye and the ownership of the words, by vocally sitting down on them, with
command and authority. The Marked RP of Englands privileged aristocracy is hinted
at, with a retraction a drawing back of the dark Vowels of AH, as in FATHER,
MARRIED has a touch of MERRIED and CHILD, a touch of CHAYLD. These anchors
or ways in to the characters vocal world give an Actor confidence to explore further
and make the accent personal, by bringing it to them.

DIALECT: Involves changes of grammar, vocabulary and idiom as well as changes of


ACCENT: Involves solely changes of pronunciation.

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la pucelle from henry vi part one

First, let me tell you whom you have condemnd.
Not me begotten of a shepherd swain,
But issued from the progeny of Kings;
Virtuous, and holy; chosen from above,
By inspiration of celestial grace,
To work exceeding miracles on earth.

mammals amelia bullmore

LORNA: I dont love Phil the man Im waiting for picked me up and put me down
and picked me up and put me down for three years till I didnt know what my name
was. I lived on apples for a year. I had to sleep with a pillow between my knees if I lay
on my side because my own bones kept me awake. We finished five years ago. I dont
know where he is. Amsterdams the last I heard. I look for him everywhere I go. Ive
scanned every station platform, every bus stop, every cinema queue, every garage
forecourt anywhere peopled for five years. What Ive been doing is making bags,
setting up the business looking like Im living but what Ive really been doing is waiting
for him. And if he comes for me, Ill go. Not for the pain. Ive no interest in pain. What
Im after is the end of the story What I feel for Phil most people, if they felt it, would
stand up in court and swear it was love! Its whats come to be known as love. Rubbing
along, having a laugh, having enough of the kind of sex you like, liking them enough to
put up with the terrible things they do because theyre not you. Thats what we call
love. And all the millions of people who feel that, thank their lucky stars theyre in the
love room and not outside it, cold and lonely. But the love rooms a con. The love room
is actually just a holding space. But the very very lucky few, casually leaning on a wall
in the love room, occasionally, accidentally open a hidden door and fall through to the
real love room. Which is smaller and emptier and totally beautiful. Ive been there. But
not with Phil.

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female speaker (31) east sussex

recorded 2003
Oh hideous because Bodiam was so sweet and sort of, um protected, really, um
Oh total Hallo, run around, sunny fields, I mean, you know opposite a castle
100 pupils you know and it was lovely and very kind of and Id been Id
been there with my brother, as you know and then, he actually No, he didnt leave
before I did but I became the only person, in the top form of the school, I mean, the
ONLY person because he had this thing of 11 Plus or 13 Plus. So lots of my
compatriots had left at 11. So at the top of the school, it got quite small. And so I
(was) kind of left, like Mrs Sad-Billy-No-Mates um at the top of the school. And my
younger brothers a year, was a year below me and I had to merge with his class
Simon and I were in the same class for just a year, actually and, I think youd left
actually but we were in the same class for a year. And, and I hadnt been really top
of the school, because we actually didnt have Head Girl things but also, my Mum
and Dad were very good friends with the Headmaster and Headmistress. So I felt pretty
comfortable and pretty safe and you know, they were very I was quite academic so
they were I felt quite comfortable.
And then I went to Mayfield And Mayfield was a convent although youd never
know that it was a convent It was a Catholic convent. Um, I wasnt Catholic. I was
the only non-Catholic boarder. So, a lot of the people and I was going in at the 3rd
year so a lot and girls I mean, how bitchy are girls? At 13? You know, theyd all
been together 2 years so theyd turned into super-mega bitches by the time I arrived.
So I arrived and theres a whole load of new girls and everyones sort of jostling for
coolness and trendiness I was a wimp. I was so quiet I was! I was I know you
cant believe it, dont be rude.

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male speaker (71) marked rp

recorded 2007
I was born in er Chelsea, well, I think the borders of Chelsea and Fulham in fact. Well
thats where my parents were living when I was born. I think I was born in a hospital
nearby, but Im not quite sure about that. It was before the war, before the Second
World War that is, and it was a little place called Milburn Grove, I dont remember much
about it er, I went back to find it once, not so long ago, to see if I could remember
it at all and I couldnt recognise it at all, until I suddenly thought, well when I
actually lived here I was really very short because I was we left there when I was
four So I got down to, sort of four years old level and then I remembered it. And
I remembered the house and I remember seeing my nanny, because we had
nannies in those days, er standing on the steps up to the house, calling me in for
tea, or whatever it was and I remembered riding my trike all around the little square
and I remembered the man who used to come round, every evening, lighting the
gas lamps and I used to think, when I grow up thats what I want to do I want to
be a lamplighter, because it seemed to me a magic thing to do and I could never
quite work out what it was about this long stick he carried, that actually turned on
the gas and made it burn And I remember a man coming round with muffins and all
those London things that used to happen in those days, um I can just about
remember. But then, as I say, that was before the war which was in so I was born in
35, the war started in 39 and my parents left London at that point, like so many did
and I didnt live in London again, until my parents didnt live in London again, I
should say until I was well into my teens. But I do have some quite vivid memories
from those very early years.

female speaker (70) marked rp

recorded 2007
Possibly it was the sound of your voice, actually, that, um attracted me. He was also
wearing a bow-tie and I was also rather keen on bow-ties (laughs) I had several
boyfriends who wore bow-ties (laughs). Um it was winter and I arrived at this
party, it had been snowing, so I had a jug of snow and I threw snowballs into the
room at all these people standing there, drinking or talking. I knew most of them very
well, it was a way of getting into the party atmosphere and getting a bit of
reaction and getting myself noticed, undoubtedly (laughs). All the sort of things one did
at that age of twenty-two.
Male speaker: And where were we as dawn broke ... ?
We were having breakfast in London airport, because we didnt go to bed that night.
I had an old car, a Morris Eight, 1937, and we drove in it to London airport and we had
breakfast. I cant remember very much about it, actually - it was a place to go to have
breakfast, yes.

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after miss julie by patrick marber

JULIE: Have you seen that one with Ive lost my thought did I tell you about
my mother? She had this thing about womens emancipation she swore shed never
marry so she told my father she would be his lover but never his wife. But then I was
born. I was a mistake, really. Mmm, funny isnt it? So they had to get married and
my mother brought me up as a child of nature. She wanted me to demonstrate the
equality of the sexes. She used to dress me up in boys clothes and made me learn
about farming she made me kill a fox when I was And then she reorganised the
estate, the women had to do the mens work and the men the womens. We were the
laughing stock of the whole county. Finally, my father snapped and she fell into line. But
she began to stay out all night she took lovers, people talked, she blamed my father
for the failure of her experiment her infidelities were her revenge. They rowed
constantly, and fought, she often had terrible gashes and bruises he did too, she
was very strong when she was angry and then there was a rumour that my father
tried to kill himself yes he failed obviously. I didnt know whose side I was on
I think I learnt all my emotions by the age of ten and never developed any more. A child
experiences the world so deeply without the sophistication to protect itself its not
fair really. My mother almost on her deathbed no, on her deathbed, made me swear
that Id never be a slave to any man.

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practice sentences for shaping the sounds

u 1 Feeling in a gloomy mood, Jude threw chewed fruit at the blue moon.

ju 2 If you knew that dubious tune, Id assume you were a new student.

3 If good cookery books could push their looks, they would never be full of

4 Surely enduring another tour to the moors is pure hell.

 5 Bored with all the talking, my small daughters jaw opened more with a

6 Boiled oysters feel exploited, when annointed with a choice of oil.

7 Toms dog Oscar squatted down and watched him shop for hot sausages.

 8 Margarets car drove fast past Marble Arch, on the way to her aunts
garden party.

 9 Come to London one Sunday, Mother and have duck and onion stuffing
for lunch.

10 Dont throw stones into lonely holes, with no knowing where theyre going.

11 Another murder happened at the theatre, by a jealous actor with an axe

to grind.

 12 We heard the girl learning absurd words and hurling dirty curses at the

a 13 Crouch down scouts and no loud shouting, theres a cow on the downs.

a 14 At my time of life, I like flying high and smiling wide from deep inside.

15 That black cat thats sat on the mat, having a nap, has flat, flappy ears.

e 16 The careless hare daringly stared at the pair of bears, from under the chair.

e 17 Evidently Fred intends revenge, by sending a dreadful letter.

e 18 Pace and facial space make verbal grace on a daily basis.

19 His weird disappearance from here on the pier, was clearly mysterious.

20 Bridget wickedly kicked her little sister and hit her with her fists.

i 21 Please be peaceful and discreet, by leaving the team immediately.

Penny Dyer.

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more practice sentences for shaping

the sounds
// I must just put (some) butter in the pudding and (some) sugar in
the custard.
/p/ /t/ /k/ Packet of tea, coffee and biscuits.
/b/ /d/ / / Dirty dogs, growling and barking with gusto.
/h/ Have you ever heard of Hazel getting heated and having
/m/ /n/ // Anxious moaning men must never sing their thanks, when skiing
on mountains.
/l/ [ ] /r/ Little red and yellow roses in a real restaurant, live longer when
love rules the world.
LINKING Her idea of a law abiding country allows no room for exploration.
/tl/ Itll be fine to settle the metal bottle by the rattling kettle.
/dl/ I get muddled with handling the pedals, while toddling through
puddles of rain.
/tn/ /dn/ If you couldnt be certain the kitten hadnt hidden behind the
curtains, I wouldnt have asked you.

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rp vowel descriptions
When any NUMBERS are mentioned, its with reference to the 21 Practice Sentences.
There are 20 VOWEL SOUNDS in General Received Pronunciation. The 21 PRACTICE
SENTENCES for shaping the sounds, found on page 10 of this booklet, demonstrate
these 20 vowel qualities, plus the LIQUID U of Sentence No 2. The vowels and
sentences are listed in the form of a RESONATING SCALE in the mouth, starting with
the BACK VOWELS (sentences 17), moving through the CENTRAL VOWELS
(sentences 813) and completing the journey with the FRONT VOWELS (sentences
1421). Every vowel is shaped primarily by the TONGUE and some vowels carry LIP
ROUNDING as well. With RP vowels, for instance, the lip rounding helps the sound of
a BACK Vowel travel forward to the front of the mouth. Remember, when shaping the
RP Vowels, its the body of the tongue that lifts and moves around the mouth cavity,
while the tip of the tongue rests behind the bottom front teeth. When a vowel sound is
referred to as CLOSE, it means the tongue is high in the mouth and when a vowel
sound is referred to as OPEN, it means the tongue is low, in the bottom of the mouth.
When practising these sounds, always keep some SPACE in your jaw, about the width
of the thumb knuckle. This encourages the tongue to have a separate life, so to speak
and freedom of movement from the jaw.
TWELVE of the 21 Vowel sounds are PURE VOWELS. PURE means the tongue holds
ONE shape in the mouth, to form ONE sound, which requires a strong, muscular
discipline. There are FIVE, LONG Pure Vowels (Nos 1, 5, 8, 12, 21.) and SEVEN
SHORT (Nos 3, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17, 20). The long and short refer to the LENGTH of the
Vowel sound and the LONG PURE vowels have TWO DOTS next to each Phonetic
symbol, signposting their length. Try out the sentences on the More Practice
EIGHT of the 21 vowel sounds are DIPHTHONGS (Nos 4, 6, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19). A
DIPHTHONG is a DOUBLE or Compound Vowel and each Diphthong carries TWO
SHAPES to the ONE sound. The tongue actually GLIDES from one PURE Vowel to
another, sometimes with some shaping from the lips, and it is the SHAPE OF THE
GLIDE that forms the sound of the General RP Diphthong, with the tongue moving
through from the first shape to the second. Try the sentence PURE, WHITE
CLOUDS JOIN, PLAY and BLOW CLEAR AIR and imagine yourself gently swinging in
a hammock bliss.

/i/ / / // Lets start with 3 LONG Vowels as in /i/EE, / /ER, //AH.
21 /i/ or EE is a CLOSE, FRONT Vowel, with the body of the tongue
lifted high and forward in the mouth. The lips are gently spread.
12 / / or ER is a CENTRAL Vowel and sits on the middle of the tongue
in the middle of the mouth. Although there is always an R in the
spelling, there is no R in the pronunciation. The LENGTH of the vowel
compensates for the loss of R. There is no curling of the lips or even
the lip corners.

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8 // or AH is a OPEN, CENTRAL to BACK Vowel, with the body of the

tongue in the bottom of the mouth and the point of tension pulling down
and slightly dark. When an R is present in the word, it is not pronounced,
but the LENGTH of the vowel compensates for the loss of it. There is no
lip rounding.
Explore these three sounds in the mouth and notice how the tongue half
slides, half steps down and back from EE to ER to AH and up and
forward from AH to ER to EE Its the tongue that shapes them, nothing
else! Let the breath travel freely and the tongue sculpt the shapes Try
word combinations BEAD, BIRD, BARD or FAST, FIRST, FEAST.
// /u/ Lets find the other LONG Vowels, //AW, and /u/OO.
5 // or AW is a MID-OPEN, BACK Vowel, with the body of the tongue
pulling back and slightly up in the mouth. The jaw may want to close
around this sound, so try to keep it relaxed, a finger on the chin can help
this. Any Rs in the words are never pronounced and the LENGTH of the
vowel makes up for this. The lips stretch forward, gently shaped around
an imaginary plum, warmed on the breath.
1 /u/ or OO is a CLOSE, BACK Vowel, the tongue lifted up and dark in the
mouth. There is the feeling of a tunnel or a tube from tongue to lips, with
the vibrating breath passing through.
Notice how the tongue steps and lifts up the back of the mouth, from
AH to AW to OO and the lips gradually shape forward more. Try BARN,
BORN, BOON. Practice moving from the middle of the mouth ER to AW
// // The SHORT Vowels, // and //, as in PIT, PUT are quite difficult to feel
in the mouth.
20 // BID, is a HALF-CLOSE, FRONT Vowel that sits on the tongue half
way between /i/ BEAD and / / BIRD. The lips are gently spread.
Place your tongue in the position of /i/ EE and slide the middle of the
tongue SLOWLY down and back to / / ER and listen to the sound
changing, as the tongue moves. You might just catch // halfway along!
Try BEAD, BID, BIRD and back again FIRST, FIST, FEAST.
This vowel is used in subtle ways in RP, especially /espeli/ for the
shaping of some prefixes and suffixes. EN- is /n/ ENJOY, ENHANCE,
PACKET; -ECT is /kt/ PERFECT, SUBJECT and the Plural endings
ES/IES are /z/ HOUSES, MONKIES. Also note /b/, /d/ and /r/,
the Neutral Vowel is often favoured today.
3 // WOULD, is a HALF-CLOSE, BACK Vowel that sits on the tongue
half way between / / WORD and /u/ WOOED. The lips gently pout
forward. Place your tongue in the position of /u/ OO and SLOWLY
release lips, while sliding the middle of the tongue forward and down to

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/ / ER, listening to the sound changing halfway down is //. Try

/e/ /
/ Lets stay in the front of the mouth with the SHORT Vowels /e/ BED and
/ BAD.
17 /e/ -BED is a MID-OPEN, FRONT Vowel that sits fairly flat on the front of
the tongue, with the lips gently spread and the same tension level as / /
BIRD and // BOARD. Try sliding the sounds back and forth in the mouth,
shaping the // AW on the lips each time then try with words BED,
15 /
/ -BAD is an OPEN, FRONT Vowel and the tongue tension flattens
forward with lips gently spread. Imagine a square cardboard box inside
your mouth /
/ floats near the front, bottom corner. Feel how the
tongue steps down the front of the mouth with // BIT, /e/ BET, /
and steps up again with HAD, HEAD, HID; MINUTE, MEN, MAN.
// / / Another two SHORT Vowels // CUT and / / COT, sit on the same open,
tongue tension level as /
/ CAT.
9 // -CUT is an OPEN, CENTRAL Vowel, with the tongue lying low in the
middle of the mouth, with lips gently spread. It is a quintessential RP
Vowel. Imagine being really hungry and opening your mouth to eat your
favourite food. Youll need to keep your tongue flat to give the food room!
This sound really sits on the ground in the mouth. Try dropping to the
sound from / / in the middle of the mouth and think forward CURT, CUT;
7 / / -COT is an OPEN, BACK Vowel, dark and floating on the tongue, with
lips gently rounded to an o, sending the sound forward on the breath. It
floats at the back of the mouth, just above // CART. You can find / /
COT, from // CART, by shaping the lips into o and feeling the back of the
tongue slightly spring up CART, COT; LARGE, LODGE; SHARP, SHOP.
Now practice the three, short Vowels together HAT, HUT, HOT; LONG,
LUNG, LANG(UISH). Theres not a lot of room down there to move around
you need to find the sensitivity of touch and sound a slow Cha-cha on
the tongue will help
// The NEUTRAL VOWEL // UH sits in the middle of the mouth, on the
middle of the tongue, in close proximity to / / ER. In RP, it is only ever
used in unstressed syllables and plays an important and busy role in the
RHYTHM of Standard English. English is a stressed-timed language and
from phrase to phrase, the operative words are picked out to highlight and
communicate the message. The RP speaker uses the neutral vowel to
vocally tuck the unimportant words under the carpet.
I went (to) (the) shops (and) bought (a)noth(er) tin (of) (to)matoes (for)
supp(er) (to)night.
The (tucked) words and syllables are all Neutrals. As an exercise, the Actor
can speak the sense of the phrase, by omitting the (tucked) Neutrals.
Today, the modified RP tune tends to use less range and more WEIGHT
and LENGTH on the operatives, as modern life demands speedy and less

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 15

informed responses. But a true RP speaker will take the time to pick
the words for emphasis, like ripe fruit from the tree, with PITCH and
INFLECTION to clarify the intention of the thought.
The RP DIPHTHONGS are almost all formed by a gliding together of
TWO RP PURE Vowels. The Phonetic symbols give you a good
indication of this.
/a/ /a/ The two diphthongs that use a Regional Vowel are /a/ AYE and /a/
OW as in BITE and ABOUT. Both start from No 4, as in the French
CHAT/PAS (see Regional Vowels page). The tongue starts low and flat
14 in a FRONT, OPEN placement and swings or springs fully up to // for
AYE, with lips spread I, MY, HEIGHT, DISGUISE. For /a/ OW, the
13 Modern RP speaker comes from much the same place, but shapes the
Vowel round and up on the lips to // HOW, CROWN, PLOUGH. Try
them together to find a similar energy. BITE, ABOUT; LIED, LOUD;
/e/ // Lets look at /e/ EY and // OH as in BAIT and BOAT.
18 /e/ EY moves from /e/ to // with little swing. Modern speakers should
move the tongue closer in the mouth than they realize think Scots or
French there is a wee pressure through the middle of the tongue as the
sound completes NAME, WEIGHT, TAIL, LAY.
10 // OH moves from // to // with rounding on the lips. Its the lip shape
thatll get you there, to this quintessential RP Vowel. Imagine you are
shaping your lips round a straw, as you complete the sound or around
your little finger NO, ALONE, THROW, FOAL.
Try them together youll notice they sit on the same tongue tension
level, one behind the other. BAIT, BOAT; GALE, GOAL; TODAY, BELOW.
// 6 // OY as in BOY is not a common sound, and pushes forward and
up on the tongue from // to //. The sound is propelled forward on the
breath with lips gently shaped around the imaginary plum, which melts
away to // PLOY, COIN, MOIST. Try BAY, BUY, BOY feel how the
tongues lifts to the same place each time.
// /e/ // The last three Diphthongs all slide their way into the Neutral Vowel //
UH as in PIER, PAIR, PURE. The three movements are subtle, like tiny
ripples in the middle of the tongue.
19 // EER starts with // and slides or ebbs into the Neutral //. The
lips remain spread. EAR, SHEER, CLEAR, REALLY.
16 /e/ AIR starts from /e/ and ebbs slightly back to the Neutral //. Its
really very subtle. The lips remain spread. FAIR, MAYOR, GLARE, TEAR.
Try them together HERE and THERE; BEER, BEAR; DEAR, DARE
4 // OOR starts from // with a gentle pout of the lips and melts forward
onto the // Neutral vowel. This Vowel is sharply recessive today, being
replaced with // AW, as in POOR, SURE or being split by the w
spelling as in FEWER, SEWER. But its subtlety is still being appreciated

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 16

/ju/ 2 Sentence No 2 gives us the use of the LIQUID U. It is a very important

sound for Americans to master and is sharply recessive in Modern RP
speech. The SIX Consonants T, D, N, L, S, Z, need to remain clearly felt
and heard, when combined with the Liquid U. It requires dexterity of
tongue tip! Try combinations to feel when its right TUNE, CHOON;

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 17

rp consonant descriptions
/t/ One of the most popular sounds of RP is the T. This Plosive consonant
is made with the tiniest release of air, the tongue tip making brief, but firm,
contact with the front of the upper gum ridge also known as the
ALVEOLAR ridge behind the top front teeth. Sometimes you can locate
a small ridge on the roof of the mouth, running towards the teeth and the
very front of this, is right behind the teeth and acts as a good point of
contact. The firm, but brief, gentle press of the tongue tip in this place,
before release, enables the sound to explode cleanly. Imagine the point of
contact is quite hot to the touch, it stops you from hanging around! The
RP speaker will always choose a TAP dance, over a Soft Shoe Shuffle
But dont let the use of a /t/ lead to stilted speech, our Ts can give way to
other consonants, especially in word-final positions, such as NIGHT
tongue tip moves into position, but never releases through. Slow it down,
to perhaps, make a POINT and theres room for the /t/ again. Try with D
the same rules can apply. The RP tongue tip can be a useful emotional
weapon. The modern speaker often favours speed, so medial Ts, between
Vowels, slyly change into Ds try speeding through A LOT OF THINGS;
THE MATTER WITH THAT. Slow down again and the /t/ comes back. Final
Ts really come and go in the modified speech of modern RP speakers, but
keep off those London Glottals! The tip of the tongue will still lift up and
make contact with the top teeth ridge, even though the air may not
explode through to sound the consonant.
/p/ /t/ /k/ All SIX Plosive sounds are made with a small release of air. The /p/ and /b/,
/b/ /d/ / / require a firm release between the lips and the /k/ and / /, between the
back of the tongue and the soft palate. (Thats the spongy part at the back
of the roof of the mouth and its a muscular membrane try saying SING
A SONG, so you can feel it.) These SIX consonants are the key to RP
fitness, so get practicing!
// // These two sounds are the only DENTAL consonants in RP. The tongue tip
spreads, oh so very close to the back of the top front teeth, so theres
barely room for a small feather, and the air brushes out between the teeth.
With // the vibrating air flow can be ticklish! What you are hearing and
feeling, as you make these sounds, is friction. Once the tongue tip makes
proper contact with the teeth, the friction is lost and the sound changes.
Try alternating the following words and feeling the difference on your
/h/ This sound is present in RP, most of the time. It is released with GENTLE
aspiration on the out breath, from a narrowed opening between the vocal
folds. Cup your hands in front of your face and feel the warmth of the
barely audible breath /h/ in the middle of your palms. When there are

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 18

several Hs in one phrase or sentence, the unstressed /h/ are often lost. Try
HE PUT HIS HAT ON HIS HEAD. Note how, with speed, the two HIS
become IS.
/hw/ This sound is no longer employed by modern RP speakers. With Marked
wh RP, it needs to be used either sparingly for emphasis OR as a character
choice. It can seem remarkably affected. The sound is made by blowing
an imaginary candle out, over the voicing of the W. This way, the breath of
the /h/ comes first, as it should do.
/l/ [ ] There are TWO L sounds in RP. The LIGHT or CLEAR /l/ is heard BEFORE
tongue tip pushes up and forward on the teeth ridge and the voiced sound
escapes sideways, over the tongue and between the teeth. The DARK [ ]
is heard AFTER Vowels, as in ALWAYS; DULL; RULED. Although the
tongue tip is touching the teeth ridge, the body of the tongue pulls down
and back in the mouth, as if cradling or cupping the vowel sound. The
voiced air still escapes sideways, but more secretly.
/r/ RP is a NON-RHOTIC accent. /r/ is pronounced BEFORE and BETWEEN
vowels, but never after. Therefore all the Rs are SILENT in the following
CARED; DOOR; ARTHUR; ENORMOUS. The consonant is made with the
tongue tip curling up in the mouth, close to the back of the upper teeth
ridge. It is tricky to feel, but make sure you keep a little fingers width
between your teeth, while practicing. Imagine trying to balance a dew-
drop on the very tip of your tongue and then breathing out, warming the
dew-drop, before allowing the tongue tip to fall into the shape of a
following vowel RED; RIGHT; REALLY. It becomes more difficult when
the R is between vowels HURRY; TOMORROW; TERRIBLE and also
as a LINKING R between words EVERAGAIN; FOURAM or
FOUROCLOCK. The reflex of the tongue has to speed up, a bit like
flapping a piece of material quickly. Sometimes a bottom lip curling occurs,
in an attempt to help make the sound. This is fine, as long as it remains in
second place to the tongue movement. If the lip is very active while
practicing, pop a finger on it, to calm it down and help the tongue to shape
better. You may then notice the top lip trying to help the only thing left to
do is SMILE it works! Gradually, with practice, the life of the tongue tip
will separate from the movement of the lips. The shaping of the RP /r/ is
recessive in younger speakers, a movement off the back of the tongue is
preferred, for ease and speed of delivery. It is also common today to hear
the use of an INTRUSIVE R an R that occurs when there isnt one. Try
is to do it? Your tongue needs to lift and quickly float through from vowel
to vowel.

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 19

/tl/ /dl/ These two sounds carry the grand title of LATERAL RELEASE and are
syllabic consonants. Instead of the /t/ and /d/ exploding from the front of
the mouth, they explode LATERALLY (sideways), with the [ ]. They are
idiosyncratic to RP, but are recessive, being used less by modern
speakers. They are essential for Marked RP. Keep your tongue tip and
blade (the area behind the tip) firmly stuck to your upper teeth ridge like
glue. Imagine that your bottom side teeth are ramparts and the sides of
your tongue are two cannons. As you fire the cannons, feel the air explode
over the sides of the tongue and out beyond the ramparts. Have you ever
tried to make a Horse trot? Theres a clicking noise you can make to
encourage the horse, only its made on the IN breath. Try releasing the
same sound on an OUT breath ITLL; CHORTLE; CUDDLING; IDLE.
/tn/ /dn/ These two sounds carry the title of NASAL RELEASE and are syllabic
consonants. Instead of the /t/ and /d/ exploding from the front of the
mouth, they explode DOWN THE NOSE, with the [ ]. They are
idiosyncratic to RP, but are sharply recessive in modern speakers. They
are essential for Marked RP. Keep your tongue tip and blade (the area
behind the tip) firmly stuck to your upper teeth ridge like glue. Imagine
you are trying to clear something from your nose, youll need to lift the soft
palate to block the airways and then its like a very gentle cough a muted
explosion, only, its in the nose! The /t/ and /d/ will sound very different, in
fact, you can hardly hear them COTTON, SHOULDNT.

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 20

introduction to phonetics
Spoken language is made up of successions of sounds that are shaped on the breath
by the speech organs. Phonetics is the study and classification of these sounds, with
the use of symbols.
The Actor needs to remember that Phonetics is a HEAR SPEAK system.
I have used IPA (The International Phonetic Alphabet) for those of you who appreci-
ate a solid, more technical foundation. The choices are based on my experience; my
extensive collection of recordings of genuine accents and dialects; people-watching
and comparisons with the phonetic experts, such as Daniel Jones, A.C.Gimson,
J.C.Wells, Arthur Hughes and Peter Trudgill.
The springboard into each accent is Received Pronunciation (RP) Standard
English Speech. The phonetic symbols for the Vowels and Consonants of RP and each
of the REGIONAL accents explored, are found alongside the appropriate sentences.
Also, each booklet contains short descriptions of how the shape of each sound
changes in the mouth from RP to the regional accent. With the Vowels, this always
involves a movement of the tongue and sometimes a secondary movement of the lips.
With the Consonants, Ive only described the main features of each accent. The
Phonetic notation has been kept simple and therefore broad in its transcription.
Incidentally, this is not a course in phonetics, as I certainly dont want to boggle you
with technique! There are plenty of books on phonetics and speech, should you wish
to explore further and understand more.
Some actors prefer to invent their own phonetics, so feel free to doodle!
A VOWEL is made by an uninterrupted passage of vibrating air, through the mouth.
The Vowel is shaped primarily by the movement of the tongue. Some Vowels have
secondary shaping with the lips. ALL Vowels are open and voiced.
A CONSONANT is made by an interrupted passage of air, through the mouth. The
air is either completely or partially blocked by one or more of the Organs of Speech.
Some Consonants are voiced (vibrating) and some are voiceless or unvoiced.

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 21

The RP Vowels
NB: Keep your tongue tip relaxed and lightly touching the gum, behind your bottom,
front teeth, when practising these sounds.


(Compound or double Vowels)
(Compound Vowels + )
NB: Note how some Vowel sounds have Consonants in the spelling. eg: barn, talk,
flew, conveyor. These Consonants are not pronounced in RP. The English language
can seem very complicated! But just remember, dialect is all about a HEAR/SPEAK
format. How the ear receives the sound and how the speech organs shape it.
The RP Consonants
PLOSIVES (Unvoiced/Voiced) AFFRICATES (Unvoiced/Voiced)
/p/ PIG /b/ BOY /tr/ TRAMP /dr/ DRAW
/t/ TEN /d/ DOG /t/ CHURCH /d/ JUDGE
/k/ CAKE / / GHOST
/s/ {

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 22

The Cardinal or Regional Vowels

These are the Regional Vowel sounds found in accents and languages worldwide. The
shaping of the individual Vowel is EXTREME in its placement, as opposed to the
placement of an RP Vowel, which is REFINED.
I have listed only those sounds that you will hear on these six CDs. Where possible,
I have used French words to help you allocate the shape of each Vowel in your mouth.
I have underlined these symbols for speedy recognition and given you a detailed
description, as to how the sounds are formed with the tongue and sometimes, with the
lips as well. Remember, as with all Vowels, the tongue tip stays down behind the
bottom front gum ridge and keep a bit of space, about the width of your thumb,
between your teeth, when finding the Vowel shapes. The springboard accent is RP.
No. 1 [i] MERCI / TRISTE
The tongue slightly lifts forward and up in the mouth to a close shape. The lips remain
No. 2 [e] LAIT / THE
The tongue lifts up and slightly forward in the mouth to a mid-close, pure shape. The
lips remain neutral.
No. 3 [] TETE / GUERRE
The tongue drops slightly and flattens forward in the mouth to this middle, front shape.
The lips are neutral, but think Zippy from the Childrens programme!
No. 4 [a] CHAT / PAS
The tongue flattens forward to the bottom, front corner of the mouth. The lips remain
neutral. The inside of the mouth feels like a square.
No. 5 [] START / CALM / HALF (Geordie accent)
The tongue retracts slightly and flattens back into the dark part of the mouth. The tongue
tip slightly pulls back and away from the bottom gum ridge. The lips are neutral.
The tongue retracts into this slightly dropped, dark Vowel in the back of the mouth. The
tongue tip slightly pulls back and away from the bottom gum ridge. Imagine your lips
shaped like a traditional church window or the mouth of a goldfish!
No. 7 [o] HAUT / LEAU
The tongue retracts back and up in the mouth, as if avoiding a hot potato, with the lips
shaped to cool the space or round a drinking straw. The tongue tip slightly pulls back
and away from the bottom gum ridge.
The tongue retracts high and back in the mouth, with full lip-rounding, like the mouth
of a tunnel. The tongue tip slightly pulls back and away from the bottom gum ridge.
No. 11 [] BEURRE / OEUF
The tongue pushes forward and flat to this middle, front shape, (TETE / GUERRE) and
the lips pout forward as well, around the tongue
No. 13 [] DANS / HOMME
The tongue retracts slightly and flattens back into this dark part of the mouth, (START /
CALM / HALF Geordie), as if avoiding a cold ice-cube. The tongue tip slightly pulls
back and away from the bottom gum ridge. The lips take up the shape of an ice-cube.

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 23

reference books
English Accents and Dialects, Arthur Hughes, Peter Trudgill and Dominic Watts
(Hodder Arnold)

The Routes of English, Simon Elmes (BBC Radio 4/BBC 2000)

The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg (Sceptre)

Does Accent Matter?, Prof John Honey (Faber and Faber)

About Britain (Series of Guide Books), For The Festival of Britain Office (Collins 1951)

David Gentlemans Britain (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)

David Gentlemans London (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)
David Gentlemans Coastline (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)

The Oxford Companion to the English Language, edited by Tom McArthur (OUP)

The Angry Island Hunting the English, A A Gill (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)

The English Landscape, Bill Bryson (Profile Books)

Accents of English An Introduction, J C Wells (CUP)

Accents of English The British Isles, J C Wells (CUP)
Accents of English Beyond The British Isles, J C Wells (CUP)

The English, Jeremy Paxman (Penguin)

The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, edited by David Crystal (CUP)

The Story of English, Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil (Faber and
Faber/BBC Publications)

English The Origins, History and Development of the Language, Katherine Watson (St
James Publishing)

The Muvver Tongue, Robert Barltrop and Jim Wolveridge (Journeyman Press)

London The Biography, Peter Ackroyd (Vintage)

Made in America, Bill Bryson (Minerva)

The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker (Penguin)

An Outline of English Phonetics, Daniel Jones (CUP)

Phonetic Symbol Guide, Geoffrey K Pullman and William A Ladusaw (Chicago)

An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, A C Gimson (Arnold Publishers)

RP booklet 26/10/07 1:02 pm Page 24

The following actors and directors have endorsed the Access Accents CDs:

Roger Allam John Maybury

Lorraine Ashbourne Catherine McCormack
Dame Eileen Atkins Helen McCrory
Michael Attenborough Sienna Miller
Cate Blanchett Dame Helen Mirren
Brenda Blethyn David Morrissey
Jim Broadbent Cillian Murphy
Elaine Cassidy Bill Nighy
Dominic Cooke Rufus Norris
James Cromwell Sir Trevor Nunn
Sinead Cusack Frances O'Connor
Charles Dance Rosamund Pike
Jenny Darnell Lindsay Posner
Christopher Eccleston James Purefoy
Chiwitel Ejiofar Kelly Reilly
Stephen Frears Matthew Rhys
Aidan Gillan Josie Rourke
Iain Glen Mark Rylance
Michelle Gomez Danny Sapani
Michael Grandage Andy Serkis
Tom Hollander Michael Sheen
Bob Hoskins Sir Antony Sher
Jason Isaacs Jonathan Slinger
Alex Jennings Imelda Staunton
Toby Jones Audrey Tautou
Keira Knightley David Threlfall
Andrew Lincoln Stephen Unwin
Matthew MacFayden