Cor blimey! Even the Queen no longer speaks the Queen's English

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

The Independent, 21 December 2000

Givin' it large Ma'am! Her Majesty may not be so amused to find that a team of linguists has found her guilty of no longer speaking the Queen's English.

A group of Australian researchers analysed every Christmas message made by the Queen since 1952 and discovered that she now speaks with an intonation more Chelmsford than Windsor.

Subjecting the Queen's speech to intense linguistic analysis, the scientists found that Elizabeth II has dumbed down albeit unwittingly to fit in with the classless zeitgeist of New Labour's Britain.

Jonathan Harrington, Sallyanne Palethorpe and Catherine Watson, from Macquarie University in Sydney, reported yesterday in the journal Nature that even the Queen is not immune to the rise of the estuarine English spoken by southerners. The researchers said: "The pronunciation of all languages changes subtly over time, mainly owing to the younger members of the community. What is unknown is whether older members unwittingly adapt their accent towards community changes.

"Our analysis reveals that the Queen's pronunciation of some vowels has been influenced by the standard southern British accent of the 1980s which is more typically associated with speakers who are younger and lower in the social hierarchy."

David Abercrombie, the distinguished phonetician, remarked in 1963 about the importance of accent as a mark of class. "One either speaks received pronunciation, or one does not, and if the opportunity to learn it in youth has not arisen, it is almost impossible to learn it in later life," he said.

Although the Queen has resisted the more vulgar aspects of cockney English, such as aitch-dropping, she has been influencedby it. For example, there is now a tendency to pronounce the "l" in "milk" as a vowel.

With the permission of Buckingham Palace, and the help of the BBC's sound archive, the researchers investigated the Queen's pronunciation and found an evolution towards the southern British accent.

The researchers said: "We conclude that the Queen no longer speaks the Queen's English of the 1950s,although the vowels of the 1980s Christmas message are still clearly set apart from those of the standard southern British accent."

A palace spokesman said: "We have been made aware of the research and we leave it for others to assess it."


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