The Queen’s English
Last month Queen Elizabeth II became the longest serving English monarch, so it seems the ideal moment to have a look at one of her most famous facets – her English accent. If you want to sound like the Queen, it is mainly her vowel sounds that are different from a standard GB accent, but one must also focus on one’s intonation and one’s delivery. So here are 10 tips to speak like the Queen (the audio is firstly as the Queen may pronounce the sentence, then in standard GB):
1. /æ/ in HAT
The Queen makes the /æ/ vowel found in MAT, MAN, ACTION and THANKS with a more close jaw than standard GB speakers, closer to the /e/ found in MET & MEN:
Thank that man.
2. /əʊ/ in NO
This is a very distinctive feature of the Queen’s accent. GB speakers start this vowel in the centre of the mouth, but the Queen starts at the front of the mouth in words like GO, FLOW:
Don’t go so slowly.
3. /i/ at the end of REALLY
If a word ends in a weak ‘y’, GB speakers will make a short, weak /i/ sound, but the Queen will say a more open /ɪ/:
Absolutely silly Billy.
4. /ʌ/ in MUM
This vowel is quite neutral in GB English, but the Queen goes further back than the average speaker in words like LOVE, JUSTICE and YOUNG, listen:
Such lovely mums!
5. /aɪə/ and /aʊə/ in WIRE & POWER
In words like TYRE, SHIRE & FIRE, the Queen would use a long single vowel like /ɑː/ instead of the three sounds in /aɪə/, she’d do the same for /aʊə/, so words like POWER and TOWER would also become /ɑː/:
The wireless tirelessly inspires.Power shower
6. /r/ in VERY
When an /r/ sound appears after a vowel and before a weak vowel, the Queen will tap her tongue, such as SORRY, SPIRIT, CORONATION:
A very merry ceremony
7. /uː/ in YOU
The Queen makes her /uː/ sounds very far back in the mouth, a standard GB speaker would have the tongue further towards the centre in words like TOO, NEW, SOON, WHO:
Two new shoes for you
8. /ə/ in MOTHER
The Queen makes her weak vowel /ə/ more open than many at the end of words, like LOVER, SUMMER, SAILOR and MANOR:
A distinctive feature of the Queen’s speech is her use of a high-falling intonation pattern that doesn’t quite hit the bottom tone and glides down rather slowly:
I don’t really ↘know.
It is very rare to hear the Queen speaking in a hurry, she has no need to do so, one would imagine, so it gives her plenty of time to articulate her sounds fully:
I’m the Queen and I speak rather slowly.
This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notes, diagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.