Неизвестное лицо британской культуры / The Unknown Face of the British Culture

“Language most shows a man.
Speak that I may see thee”
Ben Jonson

We know quite a lot of interesting or sometimes even tricky facts about British Culture and its various aspects such as history, manners of behavior, holidays, dress codes, rules of communication and etc. However, it is absolutely obvious that there are some faces of it that are carefully hidden from foreign observers. For instance, what do we know about linguistic codes? Absolutely nothing. That’s why I’d like to investigate this aspect of British culture.

It is not a secret that the whole British society is strictly divided into social classes, so one cannot talk about English conversation codes without talking about class. And one cannot talk at all without immediately revealing one’s social class. All British people, whether they admit it or not are filled with a sort or social alarm which tells them a person’s social position as soon as he or she begins to speak.

There are two main factors that contribute to one’s position on the social ladder: pronunciation and vocabulary – the words one use and the way one pronounce them. Naturally, pronunciation is a more reliable indicator, so I’ll talk it.

This class indicator concerns which types of letters one favours and which one fails to pronunciation deliberately. The top of the social scale believe their way of speaking is clear, intelligible as well as accurate as they prefer dropping the vowels, while law-classes’ way of speaking is regarded as unclear and just wrong, because they intent to swallow the consonants. Upper-class vowel-dropping may be frightfully smart, but it sounds like mobile-phone text message, whereas consonant-dropping is sounds like singing. The problem is that it’s quite impossible to find an ordinary person speaking “Oxford English” these days. Moreover, nowadays regional accents have become much more acceptable or even desirable. A Yorkshire, Scouse or Geordie accent is no longer looked down upon as automatically lower class. Even though some people find them attractive, it doesn’t prove that class associations have somehow disappeared.

To sum up I can say that all aspects of British culture are greatly influenced by class rules. British linguistic codes are not exceptions. Moreover, this face of the British culture is not commonly known, but that doesn’t mean that it is less important or interesting.