Monday, December 04, 2006

AP: "Study: Queen sounds more like subjects"

As a Ba'al Teshuvah who grew up in the American South, I have always been fascinated by how one's accent can adapt to changes in surroundings. I have a few recordings of my voice from when I still lived in the south and I am always startled by what I sounded like. My past self would probably be startled by what I sound like now, living in the most Chassidish neighborhood of a big city, even if it is Los Angeles. When someone asks me if I want some cholent, and I reply "I had already," I guess there is a slight aura of jokiness, but things like that come to me readily. Or I answer questions with a rapid, high pitched "yeah, yeah" if I mean to be emphatic and reassuring. I don't think they do that in Alabama. Anyway this is interesting:
Queen Elizabeth II sounds more like her subjects than she did a half century ago, when she first assumed her royal "dutays," according to an academic study released Monday.

"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,'" said Jonathan Harrington, professor of phonetics at the University of Munich, who conducted the study.

"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 this became 'lost.'"

Harrington said the queen is unique in having a good quality archive of recordings for every year since 1952, in similar formal settings.

"It means that we can monitor sound changes without having to worry about the influence of speaking styles," he said.

The changes in her speech, he said, probably were not a conscious attempt to come closer to her subjects.

"One of the principal changes that has happened in the English community is that the accent now sounds slightly less aristocratic than it did 50 years ago.

"This is to do with the fact that 50 years ago there was a much more demarcated class structure.

"Of course, in the 1960s and the 1970s there was something of a collapse in the rigidity of that class structure and this was also reflected in the change of accent."
Update: A funny commentary on this story.

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