My Fair Lady

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‘MY FAIR LADY’

Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics and believes that an important factor in establishing one’s own social status is by the way a person speaks and presents themselves. Every division of a society is marked by linguistic differences but Higgins believes that there is a perfect and proper approach to the English Language. Higgins speaks Standard English which is a widely accepted form of English in the United Kingdom also known as Received Pronunciation (RP). Non-standard grammatical constructions and localized vocabulary characteristic of regional dialects are avoided in RP. Therefore, it does not contain any clue of the speaker’s geographic background but it can reveal a great deal of their social or educational background. As for Eliza Doolittle, she speaks the Cockney dialect of English and is unconcerned about her pronunciation and grammar. Cockney dialect is one of the traditional dialects of London’s poor working class where it is known for its distinctive pronunciation and word choices.

Higgins then makes a bet with Colonel Pickering that he will pass Eliza off as a lady at a party after 6 months of lessons. Higgins tries to correct Eliza phonetically as she pronounces some vowels, diphthong and consonants of the English Language incorrectly. Eliza goes through many forms of speech training in order to get her pronunciation right.

Eliza’s /eɪ/ sounds like /æ ɪ/ as she says ‘The rine in spine sties minely in the pline’ instead of ‘The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain’. Another example was when she said ‘Will you pie me off then’ instead of ‘Will you pay me off then’. A metal diaphragm was fitted tightly around Eliza’s lungs as she pronounced the vowels in a repetitive drill and a rotating drum charts her pronunciation on paper. She was also asked to say the alphabet over and over until she pronounced it correctly.

Some of the consonants /ɵ/ are sometimes heard as /f/ such as in the sentence "But I ain’t done nothing...
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