Is there a kind of pronunciation of American or British English, which could be described as standard?

If there is not, what kind of pronunciation is taught to the pupils in the U.S. or the U.K.?

If there is, where does it come from? Does it come from the native people in the U.S. or the U.K.? Or in other words, do some native people have the standard pronuciation, just the standard pronuciation?

Or the so-called standard pronunciation of English is invented and prescribed by some authorities (such as the government or some experts) according to the general pronuciation of most native people, with some modificatons? If it is so, who are the authorities? and what are the official documents concerned with the standard pronuciation made by these authorities?

Thanks a lot!
Hi there,

What is known as "Received pronounciation" in the UK is seen as the "posh" way of speaking English. This is how the Queen speaks, and was the way all TV presenters had to speak a few decades ago.

Nowadays, there is no standard accent for teaching children the UK, and there is no authority telling schools they must teach children to speak with a certain accent. Each child simply learns to speak according to the accent/dialect of their local area. For example, children in Wales pick up a Welsh accent, children from Newcastle pick up a "Geordie" accent, children from Birmingham pick up a "Brummie" accent, etc, etc.

What could be called General British pronounciation would probably be the way people from some parts of the South of England speak, people who speak like this are generally seen as having no accent.
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Hi Liveinsea,

No authorities control the English language. There are standard varietes of spoken British and American English. The standard accent of British English is often referred to as 'Received Pronunciation' (RP), although this term may be slightly misleading and perhaps a bit outdated. Present day mainstream 'RP' is spoken by many educated English people from all parts of the country i.e. the accent is non-localisable. Within American English, 'General American' is usually considered standard. This variety is spoken by educated people in most parts of the United States with the exception of the South, New York, New England, and Canada.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

This reads as if Canada is a part of the United States, although I'm sure you were not suggesting that. Emotion: big smile

As you can see,some Canadians are touchy about such matters.

Best wishes, Clive
Hi Clive,

My apologies for expressing myself in such a clumsy and inappropriate way. You probably noticed that I acknowledged your accent as being different from General American, so I guess all is not lost!

No prob. Emotion: big smile

Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Thank you very much!

My another problem is that I have two dictionaries: LONGMAN Dictionary of Contemporary English (2005) and COLLINS COBUILD Essential English Dictionary (1988). The LONGMAN provides the British pronunciation while COLLINS COBUILD declared that it uses the Received Pronunciation, but I have found there some differences between the dictionaries in the pronunciations of the following words (the differences has been blued):

bed: bed/(LONGMAN); /bεd/(COLLINS)

actual: /æktSuəl/(LONGMAN); /æktS�əl/(COLLINS)

hair: /heə/(LONGMAN); /hεə/(COLLINS)

peculiar: /pIkju:liə/(LONGMAN); / pIkju:lIə/(COLLINS)

Is the British pronunciation different from the RP? If yes, then the different authorities provide different standards of pronunciation (here it means the ones provided by dictionaries) in U.K.? If not, then where do the differences come from? And why are there different standards? Or the pronunciation has changed over the past years?

Thank you very much!
Sorry about the entry of IPA symbols which I am not familiar with! Also the attachment does not work.

It has been my experience that students become lost when consulting dictionaries with regard to phonetic symbols as many times each one uses different phonetic symbols. This has caused much grief and I just tell my online students to stay away from it and try to spell the pronunciation out in English.


worked ( t)

played (d)

motivated (id)

Now this does become more complicated with vowel sounds and vowel sound combinations(dipthongs), but be creative!!!!!!

e.g. 'about' ( the ' ou ' is just the same as saying cow or now)

If you intend to teach English or linguistics, then by all means please continue with the phonetics. If not, save yourself some time.


Steve Ford

Online English Teacher

Private English Portal
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
 A Cornish Pasty's reply was promoted to an answer.
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