09 July 2012
Recording of the week: RP vowels
It’s not clear what the purpose of this word list is, but it’s one of ten created by linguists at UCL, probably in the 1950s. It might be a prompt for phonetic transcription practice or possibly a pronunciation guide to English vowel sounds. In the 1980s UCL phonetician John Wells established his ‘lexical sets’ – a list of key words used by linguists to capture, describe and compare the pronunciation of English vowel sounds in a variety of accents. The first words in this list would be represented in Wells’ lexical sets as TRAP, SQUARE and STRUT. The accent here reflects Received Pronunciation (RP) at the time of recording. The pronunciation of the second word chair is particularly interesting as it's a diphthong here (i.e. two vowel sounds). Many RP speakers now use a monophthong (single vowel sound) for words in the SQUARE set, like chair, bear, dare etc.