19th-century illustration of two men

Received Pronunciation connected speech processes

Some words are pronounced differently in isolation than in continuous speech – a phenomenon known as a connected speech process. Listen to examples of typical connected speech processes associated with RP speakers.

We all adjust the way we pronounce certain sounds in connected speech. For example, we pronounce the final consonant in the word ten with a <n> sound, but use a <m> sound for the same consonant when we say the phrase ten pence. We are generally unaware we are making this adjustment as it does not impede understanding. We use a <m> sound because our lips are preparing for the <p> in pence – it eases the process of moving from one sound to another. Such phenomena are known as connected speech processes and they occur naturally whenever we speak in utterances of more than one syllable.

Listen to examples

Most connected speech processes in English are unimportant when differentiating between accents – speakers of all accents convert a <n> sound to a <m> sound in the phrase ten pence, for instance. The sections below, however, list connected speech processes for RP speakers of different ages. Click on the sound files to hear an RP speaker using the target feature. Click on the additional links to hear recordings of speakers who share the same pronunciation.

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Pronunciation feature: T-tapping

Definition 

a flap or tap sound produced by flicking (tapping) the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth – thus making only very brief and rapid contact

Circumstances that prompt this feature

When <t> occurs between vowels in words such as getting and better and across word boundaries in phrases such as get up, sort of and it is.

got about ten people lined up like sardines on the floor of this little studio flat

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: T-voicing

Definition 

a <t> pronounced almost identically to a <d> sound

Circumstances that prompt this feature

<t> occurs before <l> in words such as bottle or between vowels in words such as getting and better and across word boundaries in phrases such as get up, sort of and it is.

got ten people lined up like sardines on the floor of this little studio flat

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: contemporary RP, T-glottaling

Definition 

a glottal stop is used in place of a <t> sound

Circumstances that prompt this feature

<t> occurs at the end of a statement such as that’s it and what do you want or between vowels across word boundaries in phrases such as get up, sort of and it is.

Even contemporary RP avoids T-glottaling where <t> occurs before <l> in words such as bottle or between vowels within individual words such as getting and better.

I thought, ‘Well, what the heck? Got a summer free!’

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: conservative RP, R-tapping

Definition 

a flap or tap sound produced by flicking (tapping) the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth – thus making only very brief and rapid contact

Circumstances that prompt this feature

<t> occurs between vowels in words such as very and narrow and when linking R occurs across word boundaries in phrases such as car alarm, four iron and there is.

hopeless, dissolute man who married and had no children

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: conservative RP, zero linking R

Definition 

<r> is not pronounced at a word boundary between vowels

Circumstances that prompt this feature

<r> occurs at the end of a word and preceding a word that starts with a vowel in phrases such as car alarm, four iron and there is.

suppose we talked about the weather as usual

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: linking R

Definition 

<r> is pronounced between vowels at a word boundary to ease pronunciation

Circumstances that prompt this feature

<r> occurs at the end of a word and preceding a word that starts with a vowel in phrases such as car alarm, four iron and there is.

know, having to get off the tractor and more-or-less push it in under an arch that was too lo for it


Pronunciation feature: intrusive R

Definition 

regardless of spelling an <r> sound is inserted between vowels at a word boundary to ease pronunciation

Circumstances that prompt this feature

A word boundary when a word that ends in a weak vowel precedes a word that starts with a vowel, as in a villa in Spain, also when <r> appears between two vowels in words such as drawing or at a word boundary between two vowels in phrases such as law and order or we saw it.

so I ended up going to India afterwards


Pronunciation feature: conservative RP, yod retention

Definition 

a <y> sound occurs after <t, d, s, z> preceding an <oo> vowel

Circumstances that prompt this feature

A sound is pronounced after <s> in words such as suit and tissue, after <z> in words such as visual, after <t> in words such as tune and after <d> in words such as duke.

so you’d be a superman and I’m not

that stopped the, uhm, wind encroaching on the sand dunes and the sand dunes have gone further and further towards the sea

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: yod coalescence

Definition 

a <y> sound is combined with the <t, d, s, z> preceding an <oo> vowel

Circumstances that prompt this feature

The medial consonant in words such as tissue becomes a <sh> sound and the initial consonant in words such as tune and duke convert to <ch> and <j> respectively.

don’t have to have any sort of duties as such, you just settle in and you

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: contemporary RP, high rising terminal

Definition 

a rising pitch towards the end of a declarative statement that peaks on the final syllable

I guess the first time I kind of went abroad really by myself was straight after A-Levels and I went to Paris

that October, in nineteen-ninety-five I went to Nepal with an organisation called GAP which arranged for me to teach in a school for Tibetan kids

really can let your whims rule

I wouldn’t say the world is smaller; the world is certainly more accessible for me than my parents; I think also I have more curiosity

Recordings where this feature also occurs

  • Jonnie Robinson
  • Jonnie Robinson is Lead Curator for Spoken English at the British Library. He has worked on two nationwide surveys of regional speech, the Survey of English Dialects and BBC Voices, and is on the editorial team for the journal English Today. In 2010/11 he co-curated the British Library exhibition Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. His latest publication Evolving English WordBank: a glossary of present-day English dialect and slang (2015) draws on sound recordings made by visitors to the exhibition.

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