Queen's English: changes through the years

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The notion of “Queen’s English” is usually applied to our pronunciation. Taking the term at its most literal, our monarch’s own sounds are enlightening when it comes to language change during her reign. Phoneticians have noted subtle but distinct changes in Her Majesty’s voice over the past 60 years, amounting to a more democratic style of pronunciation. Evidence from a detailed acoustic analysis of royal Christmas broadcasts suggests that Estuary English, a term coined in the Eighties to describe the apparent spread of London’s sound patterns to counties adjoining the river, might well have had an influence on Her Majesty’s vowels.

If in 1952 the royal complaint may have been “I’ve lorst thet bleck het”, then today those o’s and a’s would undoubtedly be more rounded. In the same way, “orf” was left behind and “off” ushered in, “veddy” became “very”, and a y sound no longer followed the s in such words as super. Such conservative sounds, once the norm, are almost never heard these days, except in caricatures of formal old-fashioned speech. It is the Queen’s English that even the Queen no longer speaks....

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