Full Marks Model Answer
Both accents and dialects and the perceptions of these are changing. Social demographics change is enhancing the formation of new accents and dialects; for example, the new town of Milton Keynes, the influx of migrants into areas such as Birmingham and Leicester and also the complex network or cultural influences which are affecting the way the youth is talking while some descriptivists such as linguist David Crystal are appreciating and examining this dynamic field, prescriptivist linguists such as John Honey hold negative views on the matter. The biggest debate is social attitudes in the question of 'status' (overt prestige) or ' solidarity' (covert prestige) and, as presented by Peter Trudgill and Lars-Gunnar Anderson, the blurring of the lines between 'good' and 'bad' when it comes to accents and dialects.
The root of prescriptivism currently lies in two fields – media and education. Since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century 'Standard English' has been adopted to report stories through process of standardisation and with early transcriptions of radio and television we know that Received Pronunciation, or RP, alternatively referred to in the stimulus in the noun phrase "a BBC accent", was adopted too. Thus meaning, the use of Standard English and an RP accent in the media has been viewed as 'the norm' leaving room for social accents to be seen as 'bad' (the predictive adjective as selected by Trudgill and Anderson). To exemplify this point a Telegraph new report once reported on the speciality Bristol brewery and its products. A bar maid was interviewed and her speech was written to reflect her accent as seen in the simple interrogative "so enuf chattin shall ee pour yus a draf?" and beneath the barmaid's interrogative was a parenthetic 'Standard English' version of what was being said as seen in the parenthetic compound declarative sentence "(Let us not proceed with this interview anymore and I shall pour you a beer)". This patronising inclusion of the 'translation' perpetuates the stereotypes created by portraying those who speak in a nationally recognised accent and dialect to be of higher importance.
As mentioned education is also where the roots of the perceptions of accent and dialect can stem from. With the two main debates here being that of Honey (1997) who believes that standard English should be taught in schools and other varieties should be corrected in order to give children equal opportunities in terms of jobs in the future and linguists Milroy and Milroy (1995) who believe in equality for all dialects as children acquire these from their other social groupings Honey's argument has recently prevailed in a borough of London where a local primary school sent a letter out to parents asking them to correct their child's spoken grammar.
The letter included a list of bullet points such as the simple imperative sentence "When they say 'I seen that dog' teach then to say 'I saw that dog'". This exampled highlights the importance of perceptions of accents and dialects even at a young age, whereas Trudgill and Anderson present their view in a complex sentence "it must be clear that, if it is not bad to pronounce hour and our identically, it cannot be bad to pronounce hill and ill the same either." This clear viewpoint sides mainly with that of Milroy and Milroy.
It is important to recognise that attitudes are changing; in the stimulus, Trudgill and Anderson reference "the majority of people who do not speak with a BBC accent" and this phenomenon is at the heart of changing accents and dialects. Linguist Paul Kerswill claims RP to be a dying art as less than 2% of the British population speak it. It is said to be being replaced by 'Estuary English' – a levelled South Eastern dialect. The process of levelling has been seen throughout the UK due to the ease of mobility and the collaboration of groups from many areas and so subsequently social attitudes are less prominent. However, in some areas this is not the case.
For example, in central London, the term 'Multicultural London English' is becoming more common by the second, something which tabloid newspapers are calling "Jafaican".The complex web of ethnolects now inhabiting London has given rise to MLE which characteristically sees the retaining of th 'h' consonant, the frequent use of the indefinite vocative "man" and non-standard verb forms; for example "Ross man the team is gonna be in my gaff man" (a simple declarative utterance) whilst this natural progression of MLE is underway, new perceptions, mostly from the media are circulating. For example, a Telegraph article was headlined with the compound declarative sentence "Jafaican may be cool but it sounds ridiculous" giving way to these negative perceptions.
Trudgill and Anderson use the past tense stative verb "discriminated" to coin these who do not speak with a 'BBC accent'. However some may argue with this as, in more recent times, the concept of solidarity/covert prestige is taking precedence. For example, the Yorkshire accent is seen as being more trustworthy and warm and the Irish accent is connected with attractiveness according to a survey conducted in the United Kingdom. And so although certain accents are grouped discriminately, this is not always in a negative sense and this has to be appreciated.
As linguist David Crystal argues, Standard English is not the English language but only a variety of it nor is RP the English accent. The term 'English language' encompasses many local, regional and national variations. Whilst social attitudes will always be present regarding accents and dialects, whether this be a result of media perpetuation old stereotypes or the education system favouring one variety of English over another, it cannot be denied that new accents and dialects are being created and destroyed all the time and there are many interlinking cultural, demographic, political factors which are influencing this change. This too, giving rise to changing perceptions.