Here are the results of a tiny bit of research into the disappearance of centring diphthongs in General British English that I talked about in my post He sticks his neck out again.
|I was watching a television programme the other night when I suddenly realised that the presenter was producing an awful lot of [ɪ:] sounds, where I would have [ɪə].
The presenter, Dan Snow, pictured to the left, was born in 1978. I decided, through the marvellous BBC iPlayer, to investigate just how consistently he used a monophthongal realisation. The series is called Empire of the Seas and I watched the first 30
minutes of the first episode, which, if you’re interested, you can find here. In the section I watched there were 38 occurrences of words which in a phonemic transcription using the current de facto standard symbol set would contain the vowel /ɪə/. Dan Snow had [ɪ:] for every single one of them.
I thought it would be a good idea to compare this result with the speech of someone slightly older. I came upon this page, which contains the text and sound file of Earl Spencer’s speech at the funeral service for Princess Diana in 1997. Earl Spencer was born in 1964. The speech is only just over 4 minutes long and contains only 10 occurrences of the target. The speaker uses [ɪə] for all of them.
Of course, the samples are very small, and the speech is scripted and very probably rehearsed, so no very firm conclusions can be drawn as yet, but it seems worthwhile looking into this further. I should add that I excluded the small number of occurrences where the target appeared immediately before /l/.