Is received pronunciation such a good idea? It is a while since I wrote Speech and Pronunciation and the subject also appeals to John Beeler. That tends to be the way I talk, and I brought many a smile to a supermarket assistant when I visited the US. Our posh talk really tickles them!
On the other hand, I descended from a solid Yorkshire family (I was actually born in Westmorland – don’t talk to me about Cumbria!) and spent many years living in York and being interested in the way we pronounce words. Our little country is one of many accents and different ways of pronouncing words. All that has been influenced by travel and television, and much has been lost.
There is also a question of history. See Original Pronunciation and the Prayer Book which brings in another dimension, that of Shakespeare specialists studying how English was pronounced in the early seventeenth century. The demonstrations they give sound something like a mixture of West Country, Midlands and a smattering of Yorkshire. The West Country extended “R” has continued more in American English than anywhere in modern England. We found it in the Irish brogue. Was English really pronounced like that in those days? How do they know? The justifications they give are quite convincing and plausible. Puns and rhymes “work” in the reconstructed original pronunciation, and not in our Queen’s English.
We English have made close associations between accent and social standing, and that has caused a considerable amount of damage. There are extremes and caricatures of received pronunciation that are quite grotesque! Most of us speak as we were taught by our parents, schoolteachers and friends. The best we can do is to talk naturally and without affectation.
Apply the Shakespeare English work to the language of the Prayer Book. That would be interesting. I have heard those texts read with many regional accents that are spoken in England. I still hear the broad Yorkshire accents of lay readers and non-stipendiary priests to this day in association with certain texts, in contrast with the Vicar or the cathedral canons and their Oxford and Cambridge accents.
It would also be interesting to see how Latin would have been pronounced in the late fifteenth century. I suspect it would be like the way it has been pronounced in France and Germany, but I have never studied the question. We just have to wait and see what linguists come up with…