Does Accent Matter?: The Pygmalion Factor Paperback – 9 Jan 1989
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a well-constructed exposition of the way different British accents can be categorised; which accents tend to be unintelligible to others, distract from the content of the speaker's utterances, or provoke judgements about the speaker's class, intelligence or educatedness; and why.
It introduces carefully the notions of acrolect and basilect, hyperlect and paralect, and draws forceful conclusions about the danger of condemning children to a restricted future by denying them access to acquiring Received Pronunciation (preferably without eradicating their original accent which gives them a sense of identity, but allowing them to switch comfortably between that and RP).
I would describe the style as semi-academic: it is accessible to the general reader but requires concentration. There are plenty of examples to aid our understanding, but therein lies the weakness of the book for us in the 21st Century: many of these will mean nothing to someone born after about 1975 (anyone born after that date may wish to skip the chapter on the accents of politics). Some of the observations (for example, about advertisements overwhelmingly using RP voices) should now be treated with caution decades after this book was written. Honey's predictions about the direction of change of accents seem to be largely holding true, but I think he underestimated the rate of change of the acceptance of moderate non-RP accents.
So the theoretical basis of the book is sound, but it has become a fading snapshot of the way we were in the 1980s. You'll need to look elsewhere for an up-to-date description of the state of the English language and its accents in the second decade of the 21st century.