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The Mitford Voice: A Diachronic Inquiry into the “Upper-Crust” Accent of the Mitford Sisters

The Mitford Voice: A Diachronic Inquiry into the “Upper-Crust” Accent of the Mitford Sisters AbstractThe present paper sets out to investigate whether the conservative or upper RP accent of selected elderly speakers, namely three of the Mitford sisters, all members of the English aristocracy, manifests change or diachronic stability and uniformity over time. The typical conservative RP features looked for were: the LOT-CLOTH split, absence of the CURE-FORCE merger, SQUARE vowel realised as diphthong /εə/, SMOOTHING, KIT vowel in unstressed ending syllables and TRAP vowel realised as /æ/ instead of /a/. The procedure of the study consisted in the identification of the presence or absence of these specific features in the speech of three selected speakers in recordings made over, at least, a 15-year time span. The individuals studied were: Lady Mosley (née Diana Freeman-Mitford), Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford and Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (née Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford). The results of these comparisons suggest that elderly upper RP speakers are not highly influenced by changes in pronunciation taking place around them and mostly maintain the preferred pronunciation of their youth. In some cases, however, a general uncertainty amongst speakers of the accent, here detected in the presence of the CURE-FORCE merger, does affect the speech of individuals over the course of time. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Prague Journal of English Studies de Gruyter

The Mitford Voice: A Diachronic Inquiry into the “Upper-Crust” Accent of the Mitford Sisters

Prague Journal of English Studies , Volume 11 (1): 28 – Jul 1, 2022

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
© 2022 Federico Prina, published by Sciendo
eISSN
2336-2685
DOI
10.2478/pjes-2022-0009
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractThe present paper sets out to investigate whether the conservative or upper RP accent of selected elderly speakers, namely three of the Mitford sisters, all members of the English aristocracy, manifests change or diachronic stability and uniformity over time. The typical conservative RP features looked for were: the LOT-CLOTH split, absence of the CURE-FORCE merger, SQUARE vowel realised as diphthong /εə/, SMOOTHING, KIT vowel in unstressed ending syllables and TRAP vowel realised as /æ/ instead of /a/. The procedure of the study consisted in the identification of the presence or absence of these specific features in the speech of three selected speakers in recordings made over, at least, a 15-year time span. The individuals studied were: Lady Mosley (née Diana Freeman-Mitford), Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford and Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (née Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford). The results of these comparisons suggest that elderly upper RP speakers are not highly influenced by changes in pronunciation taking place around them and mostly maintain the preferred pronunciation of their youth. In some cases, however, a general uncertainty amongst speakers of the accent, here detected in the presence of the CURE-FORCE merger, does affect the speech of individuals over the course of time.

Journal

Prague Journal of English Studiesde Gruyter

Published: Jul 1, 2022

Keywords: Nancy Mitford; U and Non-U English; English Aristocracy; Received Pronunciation; upper RP; Lady Mosley; Jessica Mitford; Duchess of Devonshire

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