The Queen's English

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Sat Mar 10 15:40:30 UTC 2001

Rudolph C Troike said:
>Take a look at the last page of the current Scientific American. An
>article there reports a study in Britain of speeches by the Queen between
>1960 and 1980 (I think it was), and found a definite drift away from the
>older RP toward more "common" pronunciations. Unfortunately the source is
>not mentioned -- it would be especially interesting to see it. Linguists
>have usually assumed that pronuciation is fixed by early adulthood, and
>I have not previously seen studies of changes over time in the speech of
>adults. But this looks like clear evidence of shift away from older RP,
>even if to our American ears the Queen still seems to be speaking the
>Queen's English.
>        Re Tony Blair, it is well known that he uses very effectively a
>blend of RP and something a cut above Cockney, which has come to be called
>"Estuary English", and seems to be the emerging new London/Oxbridge

There was a Letter to Nature in one of the December issues summarizing a
study by a group of Australian sociolinguists (Harrington & ???). They
looked at all of the Queen's Christmas addresses (50 years or so worth),
and showed changes between the 50s and the 80s. The Nature letter has plots
for each vowel showing the changes in the direction of Estuary English.
Unfortunately, while the plots clearly show the changes, they're not in the
format that phoneticians are used to seeing, which makes it a bit difficult
(but not impossible) to interpret.
Alice Faber                                       tel. (203) 865-6163
Haskins Laboratories                              fax  (203) 865-8963
270 Crown St                                   faber at
New Haven, CT 06511                               afaber at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list