Unlock the Mystery of Australian English Accents

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Unlock the Mystery of Australian English Accents

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Vowel in "Price"
  3. The Last Vowel in "Comma"
  4. Accent Variation in Australia
  5. Accent Evolution in Australia
  6. Accent Leveling in Australia
  7. Influence of Southeastern England
  8. Intrusive R and Flapping
  9. Trap-Bath Split
  10. Goose Fronting
  11. Pronunciation of "Schw"
  12. Pronunciation of "Fish and Chips"
  13. Dark "L" in Australian English
  14. Changes in the Goat Vowel
  15. Recent Changes in Australian English
  16. Understanding Australian Terminology


In this article, we will explore the phonetic features of Australian English and examine how they have evolved over time. Australian English is known for its distinct vowel sounds and accent variations. We will discuss the pronunciation of words such as "price" and "comma" and compare Australian English to other accents from around the English-speaking world. Additionally, we will delve into the historical factors that have influenced the development of Australian English, including accent leveling and the influence of Southeastern England. We will also explore unique phonetic features such as intrusive R, flapping, trap-bath split, goose fronting, and the pronunciation of certain vowel sounds. By the end of this article, you will have a deeper understanding of the rich phonetic landscape of Australian English.

The Vowel in "Price"

One of the most striking features in Australian English is the pronunciation of the vowel in the word "price." Unlike other accents that have an "oi" sound, such as Birmingham in the UK or East Anglia, Australian English pronounces this vowel as a distinct sound. It is often described as a combination of "o" and "i," but it is important to note that it is not the same as the "oi" in other accents. The Australian "D thong" sound starts at the back of the mouth and is closer to the vowel sound in "cog" or "palm." This unique vowel sound sets Australian English apart from other accents in the English-speaking world.

The Last Vowel in "Comma"

Another notable phonetic feature of Australian English is the last vowel in the word "comma." In Australian English, this vowel is pronounced as a more open and forward sound compared to accents such as Received Pronunciation (RP) or General American. The vowel in "comma" in Australian English is further forward in the mouth and is more open compared to the equivalent sound in other accents. This pronunciation is also observed in words like "near," where the vowel sound is more open and further forward than in other accents. This distinct vowel sound adds to the unique character of Australian English.

Accent Variation in Australia

When discussing accents in Australia, it is important to note that the accent differences are not primarily based on regional variations, as is the case in many other English-speaking countries. Instead, accent variation in Australia is largely influenced by social classes. Three main accents are commonly recognized: Cultivated Australian, General Australian, and Broad Australian. In this article, we will focus on General Australian, which is the accent primarily associated with Australian English. Unlike regional variations, the distinctions in Australian accents align more closely with social class than geographical location.

Accent Evolution in Australia

The development of Australian English can be traced back to the arrival of colonists in 1787. The early settlers in Australia came from various regions of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, bringing with them a mixture of working-class accents. As communication between the ports of Australia was constant, accent leveling started to occur. Accent leveling is a process where accents blend together, resulting in a shared dialect. The first colonists were mainly from Southeastern England and London, which influenced the predominant accents seen in Australian English today.

Accent Leveling in Australia

As the population grew in Australia, accent leveling continued to play a significant role in shaping Australian English. With convicts, their families, crew members, and Marines coming from different regions, a shared dialect naturally formed. Over time, this accent leveling resulted in the emergence of a common accent known as General Australian. While accent leveling contributed to the homogeneity of Australian English, there are still variations across the country, especially in South Australia, which was colonized later.

Influence of Southeastern England

The influence of Southeastern England on Australian English is notable, particularly from the London and Cotney accents. Features such as the price vowel (I like "ty-rice") and the open "comma" vowel ("is there any good beer near here?") can be traced back to Southeastern English pronunciations. However, it is essential to recognize that Australian English is not an exact replica of Southeastern English. Rather, it represents a stage in the development of the Cotney accent in the 18th century.

Intrusive R and Flapping

Australian English shares some phonetic features with other accents, particularly in North American English. One such feature is intrusive R, commonly heard in phrases like "Law and Order" or "Australia is a nice place." This phenomenon occurs when an "r" sound is inserted between two vowel sounds, creating a smoother transition. Another shared feature is flapping, where a "t" sound between two vowel sounds is pronounced as a lighter "d" sound. This can be observed in words like "better" (Betty Burton bold) or "butter" (Betty Burton batting).

Trap-Bath Split

The trap-bath split is a phonetic change that occurred in London during the colonization of Australia but had not yet become accepted. This split refers to the distinction between the vowels in words like "trap" and "bath." In Australian English, some words follow the southern English pronunciation with a longer and further back vowel sound, while others retain the original sound. The variation of this split across Australia adds diversity to Australian English pronunciations.

Goose Fronting

In Australian English, the vowel sound in "goose" is pronounced further forward in the mouth compared to other accents. This fronting of the vowel creates a distinct pronunciation in words like "goose" ("boo to a new blue goose"). In contrast, accents like RP or Manchester pronounce the vowel further back. This feature contributes to the unique character of Australian English and sets it apart from other accents.

Pronunciation of "Schw"

Australian English has its own pronunciation of the sound "schw" in words like "is," "it," and "fish and chips." The vowel in these words is pronounced as "schw," creating words like "bus-es," "wan-ted," or "nee-ded." This pronunciation is specific to Australian English and adds to the distinctiveness of the accent.

Pronunciation of "Fish and Chips"

The pronunciation of "fish and chips" in Australian English showcases a unique feature of the accent. The "i" in "fish" is pronounced higher in the mouth compared to accents like RP, creating a distinct sound. This higher pronunciation of the vowel sets Australian English apart from other accents and adds to its individuality.

Dark "L" in Australian English

The pronunciation of the letter "L" in Australian English is often darker and pronounced with more tension in the throat compared to other accents. Words like "like," "blink," or "pull" showcase this darker "L" sound. This feature is prevalent throughout Australian English, although it may vary in intensity across different regions.

Changes in the Goat Vowel

The "goat" vowel in Australian English has undergone recent changes. In closed syllables, it is pronounced as "oi" (as in "I wrote about goats on my boat"). However, in open syllables, it has a distinct sound that moves forward in the mouth and ends with a similar sound to the French "eau" (as in "go-don't go"). This recent change adds to the evolving phonetic landscape of Australian English.

Recent Changes in Australian English

Australian English continues to evolve, and recent changes can be observed among younger generations. One such change is the pronunciation of the open "o" sound, which now ends with a bunched "r" sound (as in "boat"). This phenomenon originated in South Australia and has gained popularity among young speakers. These recent changes contribute to the ongoing development of Australian English.

Understanding Australian Terminology

Lastly, it is essential to understand the unique terminology used in Australia. An Australian is commonly referred to as an "Aussie," not an "osie." It is important to use the correct nickname as it implies familiarity. Misusing the term can demonstrate a lack of knowledge or understanding of Australian culture. As language continually evolves, it is crucial to stay informed and avoid misinterpretations.

In conclusion, Australian English showcases a rich phonetic landscape shaped by historical factors, accent leveling, and the influence of Southeastern England. The distinct vowel sounds, accent variations, and recent changes all contribute to the unique character of Australian English. By exploring the phonetic features discussed in this article, you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diversity and evolution of Australian English.


  1. Explore the phonetic features of Australian English.
  2. Understand the distinct vowel sounds in words like "price" and "comma."
  3. Learn about accent variation and evolution in Australia.
  4. Discover the influence of Southeastern England on Australian English.
  5. Examine unique features such as intrusive R, flapping, and trap-bath split.
  6. Understand Australian pronunciation of words like "goose" and "fish and chips."
  7. Explore recent changes in Australian English.
  8. Gain insight into Australian terminology and colloquialisms.

FAQ: Q: How did Australian English develop? A: Australian English developed through a combination of working-class accents brought by colonists from various regions of Britain and Ireland. Over time, accent leveling and influence from Southeastern England shaped the accent we recognize today as Australian English.

Q: What is the difference between Australian English and other English accents? A: Australian English has distinct vowel sounds, such as the unique "price" vowel and the forward pronunciation of vowels in words like "comma." It also exhibits features like intrusive R and flapping, which are shared with North American English accents but not commonly found in other English-speaking accents.

Q: Are there regional accent variations in Australia? A: While regional accent variations exist in Australia, they are not as pronounced as in other countries. Accent variations in Australia are more closely tied to social class than geographic location. The three main accents recognized in Australia are Cultivated Australian, General Australian, and Broad Australian.

Q: What are some recent changes in Australian English? A: Recent changes in Australian English include the pronunciation of the "goat" vowel, which has developed a bunched "r" sound at the end. These changes often emerge among younger generations and contribute to the ongoing evolution of the accent.

Q: What are common misinterpretations of Australian terminology? A: One common misinterpretation is referring to Australians as "osies" instead of "Aussies." Using the incorrect nickname can demonstrate a lack of knowledge and familiarity with Australian culture. It is important to understand and use the appropriate terminology to avoid miscommunication.

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