Overview of the Linguistic Variation within Australia

An Overview of some of the Linguistic Variation within Australia

This article has been written by Liam McAlary, a Years 7 – 12, VCE Legal Studies and VCE English Language Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Liam then please check out his page here.

Hey guys, here is my first article for the month of August. Like my last few articles, this one also relates to Unit 4 AOS 1 (Australian English and identity). This article is about the regional and cultural variation within Australia.

Firstly, the regional variation in Australia. There is some degree of phonetic variation around Australia, even though 90% of Australians speak with what is considered to be a General Australian Accent (I will not discuss the accent further as I have already written a whole article on it). The main variation in terms of phonology is between South Australia and the other Australian states. Most Australians outside of South Australia pronounce the, “a,” sound in words such as chance and dance with /æ/, (as in trap), whereas most South Australians pronounce it with the more rounded /a:/, (as in bath). Recently, a survey was conducted of the way that Australians pronounce the word graph in different parts of Australia, and 70% of responders in Victoria pronounced it using, /æ/, whereas 86% of people in South Australia used, /a:/. It should however be noted that regional phonetic variation is fairly limited in Australia.

Furthermore, there is also lexical variation around Australia. One of the more significant studies into this was conducted a couple of years ago by Macquarie University. The Australian Voices study demonstrated the lexical differences between different parts of Australia. Some examples include the fact that people in New South Wales and Queensland refer to potato cakes as potato scallops. Additionally, the study showed that most people in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia refer to swimwear as bathers (although a significant number of people near Melbourne appear to call them togs), however they tend to be called togs in Queensland, and they are known as swimmers in New South Wales.  The lexical regional variation in Australia is a bit more prominent than the phonological variation.

An article explaining the study’s findings can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/20/-sp-maps-of-australian-language-swimmers-v-cozzies-scallops-v-potato-cakes

Secondly, there is also variation based on culture. I will not discuss Aboriginal English, as I have already written an article about this, however I will briefly discuss ethnolects (I will not go into the specifics of any particular ethnolect as most of you will already have examples). An ethnolect is a variety of language associated with a particular culture and are typically a blend of English and the person’s native language. Ethnolects typically vary from Standard English in a variety of ways, particularly in terms of lexicon and phonology. These varieties are often a major marker of a person’s cultural identity and are primarily spoken by first and second-generation immigrants. These ethnolects have become much more prominent in Australia (which has become much more multicultural) in recent times, as around 25% of Australians were born overseas and around 50% have at least one parent who was born overseas.


Anyway guys, I hope you have found this useful and I will have another article out very soon.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: How To Structure A Comparative Essay (VCE English Tips)An Overview of Aboriginal English and its Role in Promoting Identity and How To Structure A Comparative Essay (VCE English Tips)

 – LearnMate Tutoring.


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Overview of the Linguistic Variation within Australia