There’s an English joke that if you want to say the word ‘yes’ the way Prince Charles says it, you should just think of his most prominent feature.
But new research indicates that the very poshest of English accents - received pronunciation – is dying off and transforming into a new, less pronounced modern form spoken by Prince William - although his wife, Kate, still speaks with the traditional, posher version.
Younger speakers have developed a more relaxed form of the accent from previous generations, by losing its characteristic elongated vowel sounds.
The modern variation does not feature the dipthong or “gliding vowel” sound heard in traditional RP speakers in words such as “poo-er” (poor), “hee-eh” (hair) and “matchewer” (mature). Instead, younger RP speakers are pronouncing these as “paw”, “heer” and “matchoor”, reports The Daily Telegraph (whose offices, co-incidentally, are one of the last havens of RP in the UK).
The changing nature of the accent has been highlighted by an ongoing study at the British Library.
Jonnie Robinson, a curator and linguist at the library, said: He added: “The Duchess of Cambridge is arguably posher than her husband and his brother. William and Harry are more modern in their interests. They are quite clearly still RP, but not particularly posh RP.
“Kate has focused on her voice. She always strikes me as more careful. They are both clearly RP but given that he is a royal and she isn’t, you would expect him to be posher, but I’m not sure he is."
Are you posh? In an update of Nancy Mitford's 'Noblesse Oblige', The Telegraph has this handy guide, entitled, “What type of RP do you speak?”
Poo-er – Traditional
Paw – Modern
Matchewer – Traditional
Matchoor – Modern
Bee-er – Traditional
Bih – Modern
Knee-er – Traditional
Nih – Modern
Rowel – Traditional
Rowol – Modern
Eweld – Traditional
Oweld – Modern