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X. TERRITORIAL VARIETIES OF ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION
The English language is spoken in a variety of ways. It’s the official language of the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and in a number of former British colonies. English spoken in these countries differs in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. The varieties of the language are conditioned by language communities. Speaking about the nations we refer to the national variants of the language, that is the language of a nation, the standard of its form, the language of its nation’s literature.
It’s important to distinguish between dialect and accent. Dialect refers to variations in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, while accent means a type of pronunciation, that is the way sounds, stress, rhythm and intonation are used in the given language community. Today all the English-speaking nations have their own national variants of pronunciation (and national pronunciation standards) and their own peculiar features that distinguish them from other varieties of English. National pronunciation standards are associated with radio and TV newsreaders and public figures. It is generally accepted that for the "English English" the national standard is "Received Pronunciation" (RP), for the "American English" - "General American", for the "Australian English" - "Educated Australian".
National standards are not fixed; they undergo constant changes due to various internal and external factors.
Within a national language there are a number of territorial or regional standards. Regional standards are used by most educated people in the region, and show a certain degree of deviation from the national standard. In Britain several groups of regional accents are recognized: Southern, Northern, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish. In the United States there are three major groups: Southern, Western and Eastern. Less educated people use numerous local accents which can be either urban or rural. For certain economic, political and cultural reasons one of the dialects becomes the standard language of the nation. This was the case of London dialect whose accent became RP.
An individual may speak RP in one situation (with teachers, at work, etc.) and then use a native local accent in other situations. This phenomenon is called diglossia. It shouldn't be mixed up with bilingualism which is the command of 2 different languages.
Correspondingly every social community has its own social dialect and social accent (professional, educational, according to one's age, gender, etc.).
It is evident that language means are chosen consciously and unconsciously by a speaker according to his perception of the situation. Individual speech of members of the same language community is known as idiolect.
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