The Australian accent, and what it does for Australians.

The Australian accent, and what it does for Australians.

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 July and is my second article on Area of Study 1 for Unit 4. Today’s article will focus on the Australian accent, which is regarded as the most significant marker of Australian national identity.

Today I will briefly give an overview of the Australian accent, the three major varieties of the Australian accent (broad, general and cultivated), as well as discussing the significance of the accent for the identity of Australians.

Some key features of the Australian accent are the schwa, /ə/, the non-rhotic /r/ sound (listen to an Australian say a word with the /r/ sound, and then listen to an American say the same word and you can here the distinct difference in the way that the /r/ phoneme is pronounced and stressed), heavily nasalised vowel sounds and flapping the medial /t/, which means that a /t/ sound in the middle of a word is often pronounced with a /d/ sound instead (little said as liddle for example). Moreover, the Australian accent also features a lot of diphthongs, which are where two vowel sounds are pronounced simultaneously, and the way that we pronounce the word, “day,” evidences this.

I will now discuss the main three types of Australian accent and I will be using the lexeme, “bait,” as an example to help demonstrate some of the phonetic differences between the types of accent. The broad Australian accent is a very strong Australian accent, which heavily emphasises the features that I discussed in the last paragraph. People who speak with a Broad Australian accent tend to pronounce bait with, /^’i/. The general accent is more neutral, but still has many of the same features (albeit not as strongly emphasised). Bait is usually pronounced with /^I/ when a general accent is used. On the other hand, the cultivated accent does not have many of the features described in the previous paragraph, and instead is closer to a British accent and people with this accent generally pronounce bait with /eI/. These days, 90% of Australian accents are considered to be general, and this number is increasing.

Furthermore, the accent is also very important to Australian identity. In the Sounds of Aus documentary (which I’m sure you have all watched), Dr Bruce Moore stated that the accent, “defines Australian identity.” Additionally, there are also plenty of real life examples of the accent being used to demonstrate and promote Australian identity. When I was in year 12, I went to a lecture, and the lecturer had attended an international chemistry competition in Turkey a few years prior, and he noticed that his accent subtly broadened for the duration of the trip, suggesting that he was seeking to emphasise the fact that he was Australian and that his accent was his main tool for promoting this identity, (other people who I have spoken to about going overseas have said similar things).

Anyway, I hope you found this useful and I’ll be back soon.


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The Australian accent, and what it does for Australians.