'The subtleties and distinctions of accent, dialect and pronunciation and their relationship to class and pretension (both social and intellectual) in the British Isles could, and in all probability already have filled several large volumes.'

Robert Burchfield (one-time Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary) in his book The English Language appears to contradict this contention when he states 'What we lack, however, is a ruthlessly systematic linguistic equivalent of Pevsner's books on the buildings of England. William Labov's The Social Stratification of English in New York City (1966) blazed the trail, but no equivalent scholar of stature has emerged yet in England.'

He does however comment on the issue himself;

'In fairly recent times, and especially since the 1914-18 war, words of the type cloth, cross, lost, off have normally acquired a short vowel - [as in 'got' instead of 'paw'] - though many speakers of the Nancy Mitford type still say 'clawth', 'craws', 'lawst', etc. ..... It is the same when one turns to the positioning of the stress in words of two or more syllables. Rightly or wrongly, delicate judgements are made about a person's social acceptability or his level of education by the way in which the stress is placed in such words as centrifugal, controversy, dispute (noun), exquisite, formidable and kilometre. Few speakers know how often the pendulum swings in such matters and at what rate. Judgements tend to be made subjectively ('it has always been so', 'I was brought up to say'),...'


'The nature of class-structured dialects is also a matter of perpetual discussion and disagreement, from the middle- and upper-class diversions of U and non-U to the politically divisive vocabulary of various social groups. For example, most professional linguistic scholars regard it as axiomatic that all varieties of English have a sufficiently rich vocabulary for the expression of all the distinctions that are important in the society using it. By contrast. Professor John Vincent, a historian, regards such a view as

a nasty little orthodoxy among the educational and linguistic establishment. However badly you need standard English, you will have the merits of non-standard English waved at you. The more disadvantaged you are, the more extravagantly your disadvantages will be lauded as 'entirely adequate for the needs of their speakers', to cite the author [Professor John Lyons] of Sociolinguistics. It may sound like a radical cry to support pidgin, patois, or dialect, but translated into social terms, it looks more like a ploy to keep Them (whoever Them may be) out of the middle-class suburbs.

Resolution of such opposite views is not possible. Nevertheless the future of dialect studies and the study of class-marked distinctions are likely to be of considerable interest to everyone.'


'It [slang] is stretched on class-structured racks.'


'Modern parallels are provided by the substitution of [the vowel sound as in 'got' instead of that in 'paw'] in words like cloth, cross and lost, and off in the twentieth century except in the speech of those answering to what might be called the Nancy Mitford tradition; and the emergence of the aspirateless 'w' in words like whale, when, whether, instead of 'hw'. In both cases it is not a 'law' of phonetics or of physics that has brought about the change but the reduction of two socially competing forms to one. This 'Mitford factor' is of profound importance in the interpretation of phonetic data. It may be expressed in the following terms. At any given period linguistic conservatives regard selected parts of the pronunciation system (as well as other parts of the apparatus of speech) as necessary ingredients of social superiority or acceptability. The maintenance of social values in part depends (they believe) on the preservation of such elements of speech and the rejection of rivals. Other social groups, not out of perversity but because of a different line of inheritance, display different, and therefore potentially threatening, modes of speech. In the slow turning of the centuries, the rivalry of such competing systems produces an alternation of socially triumphant variants. In the period since 1800, most of the observable changes to RP [Received Pronunciation] have been brought about by the Mitford factor - in other words, by sociological change and not by phonetic change.

People using the traditional pronunciations ..... feel in varying degrees threatened by, hostile to or just somewhat annoyed by the newly emerging forms.'

In the Bibliography he lists 9 books on Pronunciation, ending with

'For the pronunciation of British place names the standard work is the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (2nd edn, 1983), edited by G. E. Pointon.'

wherein - on page 352 - you will find

'Beloughallywoodham - [pronounced] Bluffhum
Belvoir - [pronounced] Bellvwaar [See! I told you so.]
Belweaphhulme (Magna) - [pronounced] Bluffhum (Magna)'
(Only a few formidably centrifugal kilometres from which is to be found the exquisite Haveringallaugh (Parva) - pronounced Avinalarf (Palarva) - although this is controversially disputed (verb) by some.)

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