The Different Aussie Accents
Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.
Today we’re going to be focusing on the Australian accent, and specifically, variations in it.
So, this question comes from Will who left me a voicemail on the Aussie English website.
Let’s have a listen.
S’up man? How are ya?
So, the question is, why do you speak a little bit different(ly) from the ones that are me, for example. I’m used to hear(ing) at work or on the street, ’cause me and Glaúcia, we both think that you speak a little bit more clear(ly).
So, for example, when you say “wife” you say (it) like we say, like we’ve learnt.
So, it looks like it’s open, know what I mean? And the people, normally they say, they would say, “Woife” no(t) “wife”, (you) say, “wife”. Know what I mean?
So, I don’t know if you do that just to be more clear or if you really speak like this. And, same for like “fine”, the same thing.
So, you say, “fine”, it’s open and it’s clear for us, but when you’re watching TV or you’re on the street, you hear people talking, you can hear them, they say “Foine” not “Fine”. You know?
So, it’s just one question for you. Alright? See you mate! Thank you very much.
Thanks so much for the question, Will.
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Anyway, let’s dive into this episode guys.
Are there different Aussie accents?
So, the Australian English accent is renowned for its lack of regional differences, and this isn’t too surprising given that it was only colonised in the late 1700s about 10 years after the US Declaration of Independence.
So, Australia, the accents in Australia at least, don’t really vary like they do in places like the US, which has really different regional accents.
However, there still are differences.
What are these differences?
So, linguists Arthur Delbridge and A. G. Mitchell developed a classification system for the three main Australian accents in 1965, and they created three accent categories:
- The Broad accent,
- The General accent and
- The Cultivated
What’s the diff?
So, the General accents represent the most common types of Australian English accents.
So, if you guys know the ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She’s a good example.
Ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard:
“You know, when you meet the Queen she’s one of those people who’s been so in your world, you know, my whole lifetime, that you feel like you know her.”
Broad Australian accents are more extreme, and these are associated with working class speech.
So, think of people like Steve Irwin and the character Crocodile Dundee.
Conservationist Steve Irwin:
“And mum was a maternity nurse who actually wanted to follow her passion which was joey kangaroos and koalas and wombats and platypus.”
And then we have the Cultivated accent, which is a more prestigious variety somewhat closer to British pronunciation from people like Cate Blanchett.
Actress Cate Blanchett:
“Yes. Well, no, I actually grew up in Melbourne and then I came to Sydney to go to the National Institute here, and then got catapulted out, and I thought, well, I’ll give it five years and see what happens.”
And, so a lot of actors tend to have this kind of accent.
What accent do I have?
And going back to answering Will’s question, this is probably my accent if I can be so bold as to say I’m a Cultivated Australian English accent user.
Why do I have this accent?
I think the main reason that I have a Cultivated English accent is probably because I have been at university for so long.
And so, I haven’t really been around a lot of working class Australians the same way I would’ve been if I had say left high school and gotten a real job, and also I think because I have been so surrounded by so many foreigners my Australian English has been kind of forced to become a more subtle, closer to British English, you know, proper British English in the way that I speak, because it’s a little easier to understand.
So, I think that as a result of being at university for so long and as a result of having so many foreign friends, and living in the multicultural that is Melbourne that’s the reason that my accent is as subtle and “Cultivated” as it seems.
How’re these accents sorted into:
Broad, General, Cultivated?
So, Australia’s clearly a continuum with regards to accents. It’s not really regional like the US as we stated.
So, how’re these accents sorted into the three categories that they fall in?
So, a study was published in the Australian Journal of Linguistics in 1997, and these guys tried to define this.
The researchers started by making impressionistic judgments based on large numbers of recorded Australian subjects.
So, they probably had a whole bunch of Australians sit down, they listened to them speak, and they put them in one of these three categories based on their own subjective impressions.
So, they placed them in these three categories, the Broad accent, the General accent and the Cultivated accent, and then they analysed the vowel sounds of these speakers in these three groups to decide which features corresponded with each of these accents.
What were the results?
And the results weren’t really that shocking.
The further on the Broad end of the spectrum an accent sits the more stereotypically Australian the features of that accent.
The funny thing is this study actually honed in on that same diphthong that you were talking about in your question Will.
The diphthong that you mentioned in words like “Fine” and “Wife” is actually one of those diphthongs that varies between accents.
So, you found it as well.
Anyway, the diphthong in “Fine”, “Wife” and “Ride”, so that “I” sound, the more Broad the accent gets, the more this vowel sound moves towards the diphthong in words like “Choice”, “Voice” and “Coin”.
So, for Broad accent people, they’re going to say “Fine”, “Wife” and “Ride”, and for the Cultivated accent they’re going to say “Fine”, “Wife” and “Ride”.
So, those’ll be the main differences there with that diphthong.
So, a Cultivated accent speaker is going to say that diphthong like the word “Buy”, whereas Broad accent people are going to say it more like in the word “Boy”.
So, “I” and “Oi”. That’s the main difference there.
Then there’s also the diphthong in words like “South”, “Proud” and “Out”. So, the “Ou” sound.
The more Broad the accent is, the more the first part of this diphthong sounds like the “E” sound in “Dress”.
So, it’s more of an “Eh” sound.
So, they say the words “South”, “Proud” and “Out” more like “South”, “Proud”, and “Out”.
So, they make it more like that “Eh” at the start of the diphthong in “South”, “Proud” and “Out”.
At least, I said it there as a Cultivated accent.
So, a Cultivated speaker might have a Diphthong closer to the American sound “Ou”, and a Broad speaker might pronounce it a little closer to “E-ou”.
That’s one more difference.
There were a few other features too that this study noticed.
Words like “Fleece” and “Keep”. So, the “Ee” sound in there.
Those diphthongs were more pronounced in the Broad accent, obviously.
So, probably like “Fleece”, “Keep”, whereas I’d say “Fleece” and “Keep”.
Words like “Face” and “Make” sound like the diphthong in the American pronounced in “Kite”.
So, like the “-ite” sound.
So, people would probably say, “Face” and “Make”.
I don’t… I can’t really do it. In the Broad accent though that’s how that would probably sound, whereas I would say, “Face” and “Make”.
And then we have words with the “Oo” sounds in them in “Goose” and “Good*”.
Apparently, in a Broad accent this vowel sound is closer to the front of the mouth.
So, they would probably say, “Food” and “Goose”, whereas I would say “Food” and “Goose”.
So, the study too also found some interesting stuff where the accent differed between genders depending on the vowel.
So, the study found that there was more variation in the pronunciation of the word “Heard”.
So, that vowel sound like in a word “Nurse” or “Bird”. That vowel sound differed more between women than it did men.
And then we had men where there was a significant difference between the variation of the pronunciation of “Who’d”.
So, that sound like in “Goose” or “Food”.
There was more variation between how men pronounced that than with women.
So, clearly there’s a big difference between genders as well as class in Australian English.
Note: Check out the video here to see the IPA for the vowels mentioned in this episode.
Anyway, that’s enough for this episode, Will.
I hope it answered your question.
I hope you enjoy this episode.
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All the best guys.
I hope you enjoyed the episode.
I hope your English is kicking arse, and I’ll talk to you soon.
See you later!
* I misread “Food” and said “Good”. Good has the vowel sound /ʊ/ like in the words “Should”, “Stood”, “Wood”, whereas “Food” has the vowel sound /ʉː/ like in the words “Goose”, “Rude” and “Spew”.
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