‘Received things’ ≠ ‘Things received’
We don’t really use received as an attributive adjective in the sense of physical delivery and reception very often. For example, you don’t talk about received packages, but you can have packages received before noon with a participial phrase.
However, what you can have is a well-received first novel. Now the word received means something quite different here, much more like what it means in received pronunciation. This is the use that confused you, and it is not restricted to pronunciation.
RP: The whilom cool form of English
Once upon a time long ago and far away, it used to be that RP was considered the
‘cool’ form of English pronunciation. It’s a complicated matter, but the
very notion of RP is tied up with social class and caste, and therefore with education and wealth and power, in the southern England of yesteryear.
Wiktionary says that Received
The form of pronunciation of the English language traditionally spoken by
the educated classes of the south-east of England, considered to be a
received) and used as
such in the pronunciation schemes of most British dictionaries.
Synonyms: BBC English, King’s English, Queen’s English, RP
The OED has a fascinating public
article about all this
in which they write:
In Britain, for example, factors such as mass literacy and a largely
centralized broadcasting service led over the twentieth century to a
certain levelling out of regional linguistic differences. A high-profile
recent manifestation of this has been so-called ‘Estuary English’ (a term
coined in the 1980s by the linguist David Rosewarne). Elements of East
London working-class speech, perhaps most notably the glottal stop, are
found to be infiltrating the utterance of middle and upper-middle class
speakers, and have been identified as far from their point of origin as
northern England and even Scotland. Fears of an enervating homogeneity in
British English are surely misplaced, though. The grip which Standard
English, and its vocal manifestation Received Pronunciation, exercised on
the language in the early and middle part of the twentieth century has
relaxed somewhat, and greater variety in accent, grammar, etc. is now
tolerated. And London and other urban centres are constantly having their
linguistic resources revitalized by immigrants speaking other varieties of
English and other languages entirely.
In a related article dicsussing the evolution of acceptable pronunciation
of Australian English, they write:
And then, at the end of the nineteenth century, something curious and
largely unpredictable happened to Australian English. In response to a
newly-developed concept of Received Pronunciation in Britain, which was
closely tied to notions of social prestige, some Australian speakers
modified their vowels and diphthongs in order to move them towards the
British exemplars. From the 1890s, and well into the 1950s, elocution was
in the air, and elocution teachers found a ready market for the teaching of
British vowels and diphthongs to the socially-aspirational classes. This
modified form of Australian speech came to be called Cultivated Australian.
In providing ‘British’ transcriptions for the OED’s third edition,
they explain in this article:
The term RP is much debated. Many linguists argue that it is outdated,
reflecting the prestigious standard of the socially and economically elite;
a socially acceptable (i.e. ‘received’) form based on the speech of
privately-educated men and their families (the ‘Public School
Pronunciation’ described by Jones 1917). In his analysis and deconstruction
of RP, Wells (1982) highlighted the variation within it, distinguishing
between ‘mainstream RP’, ‘U-RP’ (‘upper crust’ RP), ‘adoptive RP’ (for
speakers who did not acquire RP as children) and even ‘quasi-RP’ (varying
from adoptive RP in certain allophonic respects), and ‘near-RP’ (not
falling with the definition of RP but with few clearly regional features).
In attempts to steer towards a broader and more contemporary
conceptualization free of the more objectionable social connotations of
‘RP’, many alternative names have been proposed, including ‘Modern Received
Pronunciation’, ‘Standard Southern British English’, ‘BBC English’ (see
e.g. Roach 2004), and ‘Non-Regional Pronunciation’.
If you stop and think about it, this isn’t really all that very far
removed from the use of received in “ᴀᴅᴠᴇʀʙ received”, such as in
well received, ill received, enthusiastically received, and so on.
The special case of received pronunciation came about because the
original meaning of received, from when it was borrowed into English,
was that of Latin receptus
The OED says of its etymology that this sense of received originates in a
special use from the scientific Latin of the Middle Ages:
Etymology: < receive v. + ‑ed suffix¹. With the specific use in sense 4 compare scientific Latin receptus (1826 or earlier in this sense: see quot. 1826).
They write that this restricted sense was the earliest one for the word in English.
- a. Generally adopted, accepted, or approved as true, authoritative, or standard. Frequently in received opinion, received wisdom.
Among the earliest provided citations are these from before 1700:
- 1440 Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 425
Receyvyd, receptus, acceptus.
- 1543 R. Record Ground of Artes ii. sig. S.viii
Procedynge by no grounded reason, but onely by a receaued fourme.
- 1597 T. Morley Plaine & Easie Introd. Musicke Annot. sig. *4
I am loth to breake a receiued custome.
- 1631 T. Taylor Regula Vitae viii. 139
Enemies of righteousnesse, who are not onely fallen from the abnegation of the knowne and received truth, but to the oppugnation of it.
- 1684 Scanderbeg Redivivus ii. 16
Their then received Religion (which was as still it is, the Lutheran Perswasion).
This quickly branched into sense 1b in the early 1800s:
- b. spec. Generally considered as the most correct and acceptable form of a language, system of pronunciation, etc. Frequently with the. Cf. standard adj. 3.
With some early citations:
- 1829 N. Amer. Rev. Oct. 536
The cases..present a very well admitted ambiguity, to authorize us..to resort to principles of the English language, in defiance of the received English pronunciation.
- 1874 A. J. Ellis On Early Eng. Pronunc. IV. iv. 1095/1
The tip of the tongue for received English is not so advanced towards the teeth or gums, as for the continental sound.
- 1882 A. J. Ellis in Trans. Philol. Soc. 21
We say they are dialectal forms of the received down.
- 1890 Dial. Notes 1 i. 26
For the study of pronunciation the received spelling is very ill adapted.
OED: received pronunciation
It turns out that received pronunciation has its own OED entry.
The most commonly accepted or standard form of pronunciation; spec. the
standard, most regionally neutral form of spoken British English,
traditionally based on educated speech in southern England; abbreviated
RP. Also: the form of pronunciation of a particular regional variety
of English most similar to this.
Since the late 20th cent., received pronunciation has been gradually
lessening in social prestige, and is no longer used by many members
of the social and professional groups with which it was traditionally
associated. ‘Phoneticians in Britain generally agree that RP is
spoken by about 3 per cent, possibly slightly more, of the population of
Britain.’ (M. K. C. MacMahon in Cambr. Historical. Eng. Lang. (1998)
They provide these early citations:
- ?1710 tr. E. Lluyd Glossography Pref. 4
Neither would it be commendable..to continue any Orthography very disagreeable to the received Pronunciation of the Words.
- 1774 J. Walker Gen. Idea Pronouncing Dict. Eng. Lang. 17
Let them try if they can dwell on the radical sounds of the a, e, o, and y, in these words without departing from the common and received pronunciation.
- 1869 A. J. Ellis On Early Eng. Pronunc. I. i. 13
The alphabet required for writing the theoretically received pronunciation of literary English.
- 1889 A. J. Ellis On Early Eng. Pronunc. V. v. 6
Received pronunciation, or that of pronouncing dictionaries and educated people.
- 1926 D. Jones Eng. Pronouncing Dict. (rev. ed.) Introd. p. viii
I call it ‘Received Pronunciation’ (abbreviation RP), for want of a better term. I wish it to be clearly understood, however, that RP means merely ‘widely understood pronunciation’, and that I do not hold it up as a standard which everyone is recommended to adopt.
Although Ellis is often credited with having invented the term, and Jones with having popularized it, they were not the first to use it. And Jones specifically ruled out any sense of ‘standard’ here, stating clearly that he meant only ‘widely understood’.