(Article first published on Cambridge UPELT website)
Caution: May contain nuts
My argument in a nutshell is this: that the point of the phonemic chart is to help you to teach and your learners to learn. It is not there to police your accent. The widespread idea that the chart represents only RP (‘received pronunciation’) speech, or any other such ‘standard’ form, is profoundly unhelpful. I think we need to embrace a more flexible attitude to the chart, one that takes account of the idea that the symbols are phonemic rather than phonetic. We should recognise that each symbol represents not a single, precise sound but rather a range of sounds which listeners may interpret as that phoneme. In other words, the chart allows different accents.