Received Pronunciation: Julian reflects on the relationship between landscape, architecture and people
This recording is an example of a Received Pronunciation accent.
Julian’s speech gives no clues to his age, occupation or where he comes from. And yet it is instantly recognisable and leads us to assume he is from a middle-class, well-educated background. His accent conforms to what we might term mainstream RP. In other words, he does not deviate from the currently accepted pronunciation conventions as recorded in dictionaries and as taught to foreign students.
Elegant and sophisticated
Many commentators would use adjectives such as ‘well-spoken’ or ‘elegant’ to describe this accent. Such value judgements are not based on linguistic criteria, as speakers of all accents can demonstrate eloquence and sophistication. But the fact that this attitude remains widespread shows the status RP still holds for many people.
About the speaker
Julian Orbach (b.1953/39/22; male; Inspector of Historic Buildings)
Julian: It's difficult really, cause there are two sides to me: one, I'm still appalled at the quality of what we build ourselves since, so that, you know, we're keeping probably enough of the old, I mean, the centre, say, of Cardiff looks a great deal better now than it did when I first came to Wales. And, uhm, part of that's, that's the old and part of that's the new build; the two of them have, have not been too badly; and part of it's just improvements in the, sort of, pedestrianisation and the rest of it. And that's, that's been, that's been quite, quite good, but yet, you know, the outer bits are just, you know, there'll, there'll be bad nineties as well as there's bad eighties and bad seventies and bad sixties building and, and those kind of rings are getting bigger and bigger round all the cities, so that's a bit depressing. And, uhm, I'm never s, I mean some things you're never a, you're never really aware until they've happened that you're actually watching something disappear completely and you always think that it's just a, sort of, that things are, sort of, perhaps a little bit less of them than there were before, but you don't recognise that they're going completely and while I've been doing the historic buildings work, uhm, the old, traditional farm, for instance, in Wales is on its last legs and it, it, it's, it's to do with people: uhm, the older generation of farmers going, but with them will go the buildings that they, that they used as well and the actual, the look of the farm will go, because the older farmers have struggled on using buildings that were built for pre-tractor days, you know, they've been putting their, still putting animals into sheds that they couldn't muck out with a machine, uhm, still trying to get, you know, having to get off the tractor and more-or-less push it in under an arch that was too low for it. And using the buildings that they grew up with. But they're nearly all, you know, they're now in, I mean, in their seventies and eighties, some of these people and the younger generation isn't going to, to be able to, to do that and, and so those'll go.
Anita: Does it, does it matter? Does it matter? Do we need to keep everything?
Julian: No, I don't think we do. I mean, I think the, I think the problem for me is, is that up to a certain point everything that we did and built was of the earth, of the, of the, the soil that people were till, were working on and living on. And everything that we build now is imported, is brought in, you know, if we build a shed, it's, it'll be concrete and it'll be steel or, or it'll be brick, whatever. And so the, the relationship of buildings to land to me now is, is a little bit, it's a little bit sad I find to look at things that appear, that there'll be no difference in looking to a farm shed in the Prescellies as there will to be looking at a farm shed in Lincolnshire: the two, you know, the two probably come from the same firm. And so on, it, it's that kind of, uhm, there's a sense of time
Anita: Sameness? The sameness?
Julian: The sameness has gone; a sense of, a sense of time and history is, is, is being lost. Uhm, but I mean, uh, I mean, if one looked at it from completely the other side it's, it's, uhm, it's the people who are going, you see, I mean that, that's
Anita: That's the important thing, is people?
Julian: You see and that's, this is what, this is the one that worries me a bit. I mean, yes, the people are important, but they're going to go anyway. I mean, you know, the generation of, of, of, of people of eighteen-eighty have gone and, you know, they're, they're all going. They're going and each generation is taking something with them; each generation is, is, is, is adding something and so the preservation of, of bits and pieces isn't, isn't necessarily that important and yet if we take it all away we actually remove the mark of that generation completely.
Anita: The evidence has gone?
Anita: Yes, hmm, hmm.
Julian: And so that, you know, I mean, in the next ten years or so, uhm, most of the chapels in Wales will close down; most of the churches will probably, too. I mean, it just, it seems to me that, barring a religious revival, that's going to happen. And with that will, will disappear a, a whole chunk of the history
Julian: and culture of Wales. I mean, the, the architecture's only part of it, but, you know, the chapel is kind of, it's, it's more than, it's more than that. And, I mean, I'm kind of torn that, you know, so you could say to, you could, you could, some people would say to me if the congregation survives of a church or a chapel, even if they're meeting in somebody's front room, then something of the spirit of that survives. And other people would say, you know, if the building survives, that's part of the memory of the, of, of, of, of what's gone before. I mean, you know, I tend to the building more, more, more, because I think people change anyway and the building is, is, is, is more of a memorial, but, but, I mean they will go and, and, and whatever we choose to do about it, uhm, they'll, uh, they'll disappear. And I think probably for us for the next century it'll be much more to do with, with how we, how we look at and use the whole landscape. It'll be, you know, we'll ha, we'll actually have to start thinking about earth, air and water and, you know, the whole, the rivers and the forests and what ha, what ha, what have you, that, that, put it
Anita: Much more a, much more aware, everyone?
Julian: I think so.
 The Prescelly Mountains (Mynydd Preseli) form part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
- Received Pronunciation: Julian reflects on the relationship between landscape, architecture and people
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- Jonnie Robinson
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- Received Pronunciation
Listen to the 24 consonants used by RP speakers.
- Article by:
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Variously referred to as the ‘Queen’s English’, ‘BBC English’ or ‘Oxford English’, Received Pronunciation, or RP for short, is the accent usually described as typically British. Find out more about its origins and its current status in the UK.