Australian English

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Australian English Australian English

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Table of contents
    • Hugh Jackman

    • Nicole Kidman

    • Chris Hemsworth

    • Margot Robbie

    They all speak Australian English!

    Australian English is a variety of English native to Australia. Australian English is often considered to be a mixture of standard British English and standard American English, as it shares features with both varieties. The most well-known Australian English accent is General Australian English, which will be the main focus of this article. We will also take a look at Australian English grammar and commonly used slang words/phrases!

    History of Australian English

    The history of Australian English is not too extensive as it is a fairly new language variety (in comparison to American English and British English). Did you know Australian English has only been spoken for a little over 200 years?

    Australian English was a result of British colonialism in Australia, which occurred from 1788 until 1901. The British first colonized Australia in order to establish a penal colony (placing prisoners in a remote area away from others). This means Australian English was heavily influenced by regional dialects of British and Irish due to the British and Irish settlers who migrated to Australia during the late 1700s. Australian English was first spoken in the late 1700s/early 1800s by native-born colonists in the Colony of New South Wales.

    Australian English has also been influenced by American English features, which is mostly due to pop culture influences (such as tv and movies). Over time, Australian English has evolved and now contains its own distinct features.

    Australian English Australian Flag StudySmarterFig. 1 - Australian English is the only language spoken at home by 72% of the Australian population.

    Australian English Accent

    As is the case with most other language varieties, there are different Australian English accents - each with slightly different features. But, unlike British English, which has around 40 regional accents, Australian English only has a few, and the differences between them are more subtle. We will focus on the General Australian accent, as this is the most commonly used and well-known Australian accent. Check out the definition below:

    General Australian English is an accent regarded as the "standard" Australian accent. It is the most commonly used Australian accent and is also most frequently used in the media (such as on television and radio). It is mainly spoken in urban areas, such as cities.

    General Australian English is similar to Standard British English in that it does not necessarily give away much about a person's geographical location or socioeconomic background.

    Australian English Pronunciation

    The General Australian English accent has distinct pronunciation features that make it recognizable. It is often said to be a mixture of Standard British and Standard American, as it shares some similarities with both of these accents! A few of the most noticeable features of Australian English are as follows:

    Vowel Sounds

    Australian English often uses long vowel sounds (like Standard British, but typically longer), meaning they are pronounced for a long duration. This often means that one-syllable words can be lengthened to two syllables, i.e., "near" is pronounced more like "nee-uh" instead of "neer." To non-native speakers, this may sound quite exaggerated.

    Long O Sound

    Also worth mentioning is the long "o" sound, as this is quite a unique sound and has now become somewhat of a meme on the internet! The Australian "o" sounds like a mixture between an /ɑː/ and /ʌ/ with a hint of /r/. For example, the word "no" sounds more like "naur."

    Long I Sound

    The long /aɪ/ in words such as "night" and "find" sound more like a softer /ɔɪ/ (oi) sound. For example, "noight" and "foind."

    Long A Sound

    The long /eɪ/ in words such as "save" and "mate" is more elongated and contains a stronger "y" sound, so would sound more like "aye." For example, "s-aye-ve" and "m-aye-te."

    Short A Sound

    The short /æ/ in words such as "sat" and "hand" is pronounced a bit more like /e/. For example, "seht" and "hehnd."

    Non-rhotic

    Australian English is non-rhotic (like Standard British English), meaning when the /r/ sound is in the middle of a word, it is not pronounced unless it is followed by a vowel sound. For example, "hard" is pronounced like /hɑːd/. The r at the end of words is also not pronounced and makes more of a schwa sound instead. For example, "farmer" is pronounced like ˈ/fɑːmə/.

    Tapped T

    General Australian English uses the tapped /t/ (similar to American English) instead of pronouncing a hard /t/. A tapped /t/ sound is made by the tongue quickly tapping behind the front teeth. For example, take the word "butter." Instead of pronouncing a hard /t/, Australian English uses a softer sound similar to a /d/, i.e., "budder."

    Stress and Intonation

    Most varieties of English, including Australian English, are stress-timed. This means the stress patterns (emphasis placed on certain words/phrases in a sentence) are evenly spaced out.

    Intonation (the way the voice rises or falls in pitch) in Australian English is generally quite flat, which is similar to Standard British English.

    Australian English Grammar

    Australian English typically follows most British English grammar rules, which differs from American English. For example:

    Spelling

    Australian English generally tends towards the British spelling of words instead of American. For example:

    "Colour" instead of "color"

    "Analyse" instead of "analyze"

    Irregular past tense/past participle

    In both Australian and British English, the past participles of verbs such as "smell," "spell," and "burn" can be irregular, i.e., "smelt," "spelt," and "burnt." In American English, they would instead be "smelled," "spelled," and "burned."

    Verb Agreement with Collective Nouns

    In Australian and British English, a plural collective noun (e.g., audience/ class/ crowd/ group/ team) can take either a singular or plural verb. For example:

    "My family is kind" or "my family are kind."

    "The football team is handsome" or "the football team are handsome."

    This differs from American English, which only uses the singular verb.

    Australian English Words

    As well as a distinct pronunciation, Australian English also uses its own slang words and phrases (sometimes referred to as Australianisms). Most of these will likely only be understood if you have an understanding of Australian English vocabulary or are aware of the context. Check out some examples of Australian English words and their meanings below:

    Australian English slang wordMeaning
    BarbieBarbecue
    ThongsFlip-flops
    G'day mateHey friend
    ArvoAfternoon
    Crikey!Blimey! / Oh my!
    Ace!Great! / Amazing!
    BlokeMan
    TaThanks
    You beauty!Great! / Fantastic!
    ServoPetrol/gas station
    PollyPolitician
    LolliesSweets/candy
    BizzoBusiness
    DevoDevastated
    AgroAggressive
    KindieKindergarten
    BrollyUmbrella
    ColdieBeer
    CabbieTaxi/cab driver
    TruckieTruck driver
    SunniesSunglasses
    LippieLipstick

    Do you notice how lots of Australian slang words are shortened and end with 'o' or 'ie'?

    Australian English Illustration of a Kangaroo StudySmarterFig. 2 - The Australian English slang word for "kangaroo" is "roo."

    Australian English Examples

    Check out a few examples of Australian English sentences and their phonetic transcriptions:

    Example sentencePhonetic pronunciationMeaning
    Let's have a barbie./lets hæv ə baːbi/Let's have a barbecue.
    G'day mate!/ɡədeɪ meɪʔ/Hey friend!
    Do you wanna hang out this arvo?/dʒu wɔnə hæŋ æɔʔ ðɪs ɑːvəʊ/Do you want to hang out this afternoon?

    Australian English - Key takeaways

    • Australian English is a variety of English native to Australia.
    • General Australian English is an accent regarded as the "standard" Australian accent. It is the most commonly used Australian accent and is also most frequently used in the media.
    • Australian English first developed when British and Irish settlers migrated to Australia during the late 1700s, so was influenced by a range of British and Irish regional dialects.
    • Australian English often uses long vowel sounds, meaning they are pronounced for a long duration.
    • Australian English typically follows most British English grammar rules.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Australian English

    Is Australian English different from English?

    Australian English is a variety of the English language. Other varieties include:


    British English

    American English

    Indian English

    What type of English is Australian?

    Australian is the type of English native to Australia.

    How is Australian English different from American English?

    The most noticeable differences between Australian English and American English is the pronunciation. For example, Australian English uses longer vowels, whereas American English uses shorter vowels. Australian English is non-rhotic, whereas American English is rhotic.


    Also, Australian English tends to move toward British grammar and spelling conventions instead of American.

    Why is Australian English different?

    Australian English is different from other varieties of English as it developed from a variety of British and Irish regional dialects.

    What is Australian English?

    Australian English is a variety of the English language. It is not its own language.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false?Australian English has been spoken for over 500 years.

    Australian English first developed when British and Irish settlers migrated to Australia during the late _____.

    True or false?In Australian English, a plural collective noun can take either a singular or plural verb. 

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