It is common knowledge that over 300 million people now speak English as a first language. It is the national language of Great Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. English was originally spoken in England and south-eastern Scotland. Then it was introduced into the greater part of Scotland and southern Ireland. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was brought to North America (mainly from the West of England). Later in the 18th and 19th centuries English was exported to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa owing to the colonial expansion. A flow of emigrants who went to invade, explore and inhabit those lands came mostly from the south-eastern parts of England.
English became wide-spread in Wales at about the same time. Welsh English is very similar to southern English, although the influence of Welsh has played a role in its formation. Then in the 20th century American English began to spread in Canada, Latin America, on the Bermudas, and in other parts of the world. Thus nowadays two main types of English are spoken in the English-speaking world: English and American English.
According to British dialectologists (P. Trudgill, J. Hannah, A. Hughes and others) the following variants of English are referred to the English-based group: English, Welsh English, Australian English, New Zealand English; to the American-based group: United States English, Canadian English. Scottish English and Irish English fall somewhere between the two being somewhat by themselves.
English-based pronunciation standards of English
British English Pronunciation Standards and Accents comprise English English, Welsh English, Scottish English and Northern Ireland English (the corresponding abbreviations are EE, WE, ScE., NIE).
Northern Ireland English
Educated Scottish England
2. East Anglia 3. South-West
3. North- West
English English (Received Pronunciation)
RP is a social marker, a prestige accent of an Englishman. In the nineteenth century «received» was understood in the sense of «accepted in the best society». The speech of aristocracy and the court phonetically was that of the London area. Then it lost its local characteristics and was finally fixed as a ruling-class accent, often referred to as «King's English». It was also the accent taught at public schools. With the spread of education cultured people not belonging to the upper classes were eager to modify their accent in the direction of social standards. We may definitely state now that RP is a genuinely regionless accent within Britain; i.e. if speakers have it you cannot tell which area of Britain they come from; which is not the case for any other type of British accents. RP is an accent (a form of pronunciation), not a dialect (a form of vocabulary and grammar).
It is fair to mention, however, that only 3–5 per cent of the population of England speak RP. British phoneticians estimate that nowadays RP is not homogeneous. A.C. Gimson suggests that it is convenient to distinguish three main types within it: «the conservative RP forms, used by the older generation, and, traditionally, by certain profession or social groups; the general RP forms, most commonly in use and typified by the pronunciation adopted by the BBC, and the advanced RP forms, mainly used by young people of exclusive social groups – mostly of the upper classes, but also for prestige value, in certain professional circles.