Keywords: actors, elocutionists, standard accent, 19th-century Britain, 19th-century America.
As pointed out by Mugglestone (2003), among others, accent started to be a British obsession in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the market for ‘proper speech’ flourished not only in the UK but also in the USA (see, for example, Algeo 2001; Beal 2004a; Hickey 2010). Together with orthoepists and elocutionists, actors were perceived as good models of ‘correct pronunciation’ which was a guarantee of reliability and success (Goring 2005; 2014). This paper argues that their experience on the stage favoured their profession as elocutionists. The qualitative analysis of the prefatorial materials of 18th-and 19th-century elocutionary manuals will show that actors/orthoepists had a primary role in the construction of the standard accent ideology and also in the making of American linguistic independence.