There’s a time and a place for everything — even the Queen’s English that seems ready to take its final bow. Researchers say that the British monarch’s so-called URP (or Upper Received Pronunciation in phonetic parlance), which has always been an epitome of perfection for generations of English speakers, is on its way out. Language experts from the University of Munich have analysed every Christmas broadcast made by the queen since 1952 and published the results of the study in the Journal of Phonetics. Evidently, the legendary cut-glass pronunciation has slowly evolved into something that would now hardly pass muster as upper class.
Today the queen is apparently more at ‘hame’, er, home, when referring to a ‘citee’ or ‘dutee’, rather than the ‘citay’ and ‘dutay’ that she spoke of in the Fifties. Variations in royal speech are actually nothing new. From the Queen Mother — who used to be the embodiment of the English upper class — to George V, who took delight in speaking like a hoarse country gentleman, or Edward VIII, who famously sounded more American than upper class cockney in his later years, spoken English has come quite a way.
Television, too, has obviously improved people’s knowledge of different ways of speaking. As one’s ears become accustomed to a variety of accents, sooner or later it affects what and how one speaks. As for Her Majesty, she should be happy to be of service not only to her country, but also to the entire scientific community. For this research wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t happen to be the only person for whom broadcast material is available that reflects the same mode of delivery for every year since 1952.