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Does the Queen speak the Queen's English?

Elizabeth II's traditional pronunciation has been influenced by modern trends.


The pronunciation of all languages changes subtly over time1, mainly owing to the younger members of the community2. What is unknown is whether older members unwittingly adapt their accent towards community changes. Here we analyse vowel sounds from the annual Christmas messages broadcast by HRH Queen Elizabeth II during the period between the 1950s and 1980s. 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.

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Figure 1: The three symbols '5', '8' and 'S' represent the average positions of different vowel types in the Christmas broadcasts of the 1950s and 1980s, and in standard southern British of the 1980s, respectively.

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Correspondence to Jonathan Harrington.

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Harrington, J., Palethorpe, S. & Watson, C. Does the Queen speak the Queen's English?. Nature 408, 927–928 (2000).

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