Monday, December 4, 2006

Queens' voice melts

In the fifities one courageous soul (I am wracking my brains to remember his name so please help me if you can remember it) criticised the Queen's voice. This brought on an enormous furore from Royalists accusing him of treason and calling for his head. He dared to suggest that Her Majesty's voice was rather high-pitched. Quite a mild observation, I think.

Now, fifty years later, a study has shown that the Queen has been listening to "feedback" about her voice. Her voice has been changing over the years, apparently. I myself noticed a change in tone in the 2002 Christmas message and had this observation published by the News of the World on 29th December of that year:

Cracking speech!

MANY thanks to Her Majesty for employing a decent voice coach...for once we didn't have to secure the crystal glass before her Xmas Day message!

Oh, I am a one, aren't I?

Anyway, the study seems to have been very academic and thorough:

Researchers analysed each of her messages to the Commonwealth since her 1952 accession using digital technology to track the shift in her pronunciation from the aristocratic Upper Received to the less plummy Standard Received.

Jonathan Harrington, professor of phonetics at Germany's University of Munich, wanted to discover whether dialect changes recorded over the past half-century would take place within one person.

"As far as I know, there just is nobody else for whom there is this sort of broadcast archive," he told AFP by telephone.

He said the aristocratic way of pronouncing vowels had gradually ceased to be a class apart over the decades.

"Her accent sounds slightly less aristocratic than it did 50 years ago. But these are very, very subtle and slow changes that we don't notice from year to year," he explained.

"We may be able to relate it to changes in the class structure."

He told The Daily Telegraph newspaper: "In 1952 she would have been heard referring to 'thet men in the bleck het'. Now it would be 'that man in the black hat'.

"Similarly, she would have spoken of 'the citay' and 'dutay', rather than 'citee' and 'dutee', and 'hame' rather than home. In the 1950s she would have been 'lorst', but by the 1970s lost."

It is quite comical to think of anyone these days saying: 'lorst', 'citay', 'dutay', 'bleck het', 'hame' and 'thet'. So one can only welcome Her Majesty's gradual change of speech.

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