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What makes Australian English Australian English (part 1)?
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What makes Australian English Australian English (part 1)?

Hello everyone, it is a new month, which also means that it is time for another one of my articles. This article will be a discussion of unit 4, area of study 1. This article will primarily focus on Australian English, particularly as a distinct variety from other Englishes around the world. As a consequence of the unique features of Australian English, it is able to be a significant marker of national identity for Australians, and national identity through language is the primary focus of Unit 4, Area of Study 1. This article focuses on features that can commonly be found when someone is using the standard, although there are non-standard features that are also relevant (such as the sentence ending, ‘but,’ discourse particles, and diminutives).

Before I commence this discussion, I would like to say a very brief word about unit 3 and this outcome generally. Unit 3 is done first for a reason. A number of the features that you look at in unit 3 remain relevant (and in fact crucial) to unit 4, where you analyse the use of language in terms of constructing identity. Therefore, please do not put unit 3 content completely on the backburner as not only will it be on your exam (and it is infinitely easier to revise than it is to relearn), but it is also important for your ability to understand and analyse texts and language in unit 4. Most of this article is unit 4 specific, but I just felt it appropriate to add this little piece of information into this article, especially as it comes out early in the school holidays.

Right, how does Australian English differ from other varieties of English around the world? The relevant study design dot point is:

  • the characteristics of Australian English in contrast to Englishes from other continents, in phonological, morphological, lexical, and grammatical patterns.

The relevant key skills relate to the ability to discuss how Australian identity is constructed in language (including in your own examples that you incorporate).

Firstly, some of the phonological differences between Australian English and other varieties. One example is the use of the yod (/j/ in the IPA), the use of which varies between Australian, British, and American English. American English uses it very little, whereas British English uses it extensively, and Australian English is between the two (but usually closer to British English, despite drifting more towards American). For example, the American pronunciation of the word, “stupid,” is, “st-oo-pid,” whereas as Australians and Brits pronounce it, “st-you-pid.” Additionally, and I am again comparing Australian English to American English (Australian English is generally closer to British English) is the pronunciation of the word, “lieutenant.” Every time I watch American television and hear that word, I cringe (it is even worse when an Australian commits the heinous crime of pronouncing it the way that Americans do). Americans pronounce the word, “loo-tenant,” whereas Brits and Australians pronounce it correctly, “left-tenant.” I could discuss many more differences with phonology, but if I discussed every distinction, this would be a thesis, not an article. In addition, the Australian accent (which is not the primary focus of this article) is also a key element of Australian English which is distinct, so the features of the accent, as compared to others accents, are also worthy of discussion on these points. I have already devoted an entire article to the accent a few years ago. It can be found here: The Australian accent, and what it does for Australians. (

Moreover, there are also significant morphological differences between Australian English and other national varieties (orthography, which is spelling, falls within morphology). My single biggest linguistic pet peeve arises in this area, which relates to spelling (all my clients will wholeheartedly vouch for this). Australian and British English spell words with, “ise,” whereas Americans use, “ize.” Additionally, Americans also like to omit the, “u,” in words like, “colour,” and, “flavour,” as well as also preferring to use, “s,” instead of, “c,” in words like licence. However, we have not completely stolen our spelling from the British, as we have decided to spell the word program like America does, rather than, “programme,” as they spell it in the United Kingdom.

Anyway, I hope that this article has helped you, and I will discuss more of the distinct features of Australian English next month (I’ll discuss the lexical features).

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