Australian English: what it is and how to understand it

We recently posted an article about American English , and in the comments we were offered to do a similar analysis of Australian. The topic was very extensive, so the article is divided into two parts: the history of Australian English and features of pronunciation.

Australian English: at the beginning

Despite the fact that students all over the world study British or, much less often, American English, there is another version of English that is spoken by a whole continent - Australian. Few people know about its features, and yet its speakers speak as much as three main types of Australian English! How Australian English developed, what influence the British variant had on it and how Australians say it today: we will discuss all this in the first part of our article.

A bit of history

Many of us know that Australia was originally a British colony. Actually, the British Empire made the mainland its colony in order to have where to exile the criminals, because there were no more places for their prisons. And if the first inhabitants of Australia were the aborigines, then after the colonization the British began to come to the mainland en masse: the British, the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots.

The first two generations after the arrival of the First Fleet (this name was given to the first 11 ships that went to establish a British colony in Australia) was 87% of convicts who had served their sentences and their children. Of course, with such initial data, the new dialect was significantly different from all imported from Britain. Philologist Sydney Barker, author of the book Australian Language , (1945) wrote:
“No other social class would use slang with such zeal and adapt it to new realities. No class would have so skillfully created new terms suitable for new living conditions. ”

Australian English itself appeared with the first generation of children born in the new colony. All these children have heard a lot of different accents, and even individual languages ​​- Welsh and Scottish. As a result, the children spoke in a unique dialect different from all the existing variants of English at that time.

In the 1850s, a gold rush began in Australia, and a huge crowd of immigrants rushed there. For all the time the fever in the new colonies moved as much as 2% of the total population of Britain. The linguist Bruce More noted that during these years the phonetics of the Australian dialect was strongly influenced by the southeastern dialects of Britain. It was also noted that the speech of the inhabitants of the new colony very much resembles the London dialect of the Cockney spoken by the working class. In general, it is not surprising: the distinctive feature of the Cockney is still the rhyming slang - replacing a word with a rhyming phrase so that there is not a single trace of the meaning of the word. Rhymed slang was used to encrypt negotiations, and to whom, and convicted criminals, such delights were vital.

If British English was lined up according to the class principle (RP speakers sought to show their elitism and remoteness from uneducated segments of the population), and American - according to the principle “so that everyone can understand everything,” then the Australian version was originally built according to the rule “we have our own language and you cannot understand him. ” Hence the love of rhyming slang, diametral distortion of the meaning of words (for example, the word bastard could be praised), distortion of the shape of words, and most importantly, the borrowing of words that could not be understood by a visiting traveler.

All this time, immigrants lived side by side with the Aborigines, and this neighborhood could not fail to result in numerous borrowings. Basically local words described the rich and unique flora and fauna of Australia. Many words to this day are used not only in Australia, but throughout the world: for example, kangaroo, dingo, wallaby, budgerigar .

In the XIX century and later, during the Second World War, the Americans began to visit Australia, and here, too, was not without borrowing. In particular, the word okay was brought to Australian English by the US military. The Second World War brought about a wave of immigration from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. So, it’s not entirely fair to regard Australians as descendants of criminals: in reality, there are very few such people. The genealogies of two average Australians can differ dramatically.

English is the official language of Australia?

Everyone thinks that English is the official language of Australia. But in fact, the Australian Constitution does not prescribe any official language at all! However, 76.8% of Australians actually speak English. All others are often bilingual. The most common Australian languages ​​after English are Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Italian.

When the British first came to conquer new lands, 250 local dialects were spoken on the territory of Australia, of which about 20 are left in use today. Such linguistic diversity could not but affect the language. That is why the Australian dialect is unique in nature and continues to change constantly.

Three Australian accents

Linguists believe that there are three main options for Australian English: Broad, General and Cultivated .

At the time of the colonization of Australia in the British Empire, they were developing the so-called standard - Received Pronunciation , which you hear in most textbooks, which you are presented as “royal English” and in which nobody speaks in real life. However, in Britain at that time the concept was fresh, and the highest class of society spoke only on RP, which was considered the most prestigious accent. Some inhabitants of Australia took their cue from the British dialect and began to imitate them in pronouncing vowels.

From 1890 to 1950, oratory teachers flourished, teaching Australians the classic vowels and diphthongs of the British RP. Such a reprimand and became known as Cultivated Australian . Many associate his appearance with the nostalgia of immigrants at home in the British Isles, and today, like RP, he is considered a pathos accent. Listen to how Cate Blanchett speaks with this accent when she gets her Oscar.

In the first half of the 20th century, some Australians ceased to arrange such a state of affairs - well, in all of the British imitate, or what? RP has always been considered class obsessed , they say, its carriers go crazy in their origin and do their best to emphasize that they are not like everyone else. Australians initially advocated equality and the absence of a class division of society. This is how Broad Australian appeared - without fanciful, deep British vowels, but with enhanced nasalization (sounds are made in the nose, almost like in Americans), monotonous intonation and elision (omission) of whole syllables.

If instead of the word “mate” you hear “mite” , then the speaker is probably Australian with Broad accent . Among the famous carriers of this accent is Steve Irwin and Paul Hogan . Listen to Steven say the words here, today, look . In the word “here” diphthong [iə] is more intense than in the British version. The word “today” is pronounced with the change of diphthong [ei] to almost [ai]. And the word “look” is pronounced with typical Australian [u] - very rounded, almost like in Russian. In the British RP, the sound [u] is practically not blunt. Paul Hogan, known for the role of Crocodile Dundee, is difficult for many to understand because of the vowels of the same diphthong shift [ei] to broad [ai]. By the way, “to throw shrimp on the barbie” is an Australian phrase that has become a stereotype.

While the previous two groups of Australians changed something and did not sit in their place, the majority of the population spoke of the variant that was established in the first 50 years of settlement on the new land - General Australian . Now it is the most common version of Australian English. A well-known carrier of General Australian is actor Hugh Jackman . Also on General Australian say politicians, for example, Julia Gillard . You may notice that the –ir-, -er- and –ur- combinations preserved the British pronunciation - they lack the sound [r] and are pronounced as [ɜ]. Vowels are somewhat reminiscent of Broad Australian - the diphthong is also shifting [ei]. The sound [e] is very closed, which together with the sound [i] sometimes sounds like [ei] (in the words me and effort , for example).

In this video, you can also see how native speakers of different Australian English dialects speak two identical phrases (at the beginning and at the end of the video) and hear obvious differences in the pronunciation of vowels. In some ways, Australians are still similar to the British. But, according to the actresses and instructors of oratory in this video, the Australian version is more relaxed, does not fit into the rigid framework of the British RP, and is not as active as American English. In addition, the Australian version also boasts the presence of accents in the mainland. If you listen to people at the end of the video, you will hear that they pronounce the same phrase differently, although they are from the same country.

If you are interested in hearing more examples of Australian English and independently observe the development of this interesting language variant, we advise you to visit the website of Macquarie University. Employees of the University of Felicity Cox and Sallienn Paletorp created the project Australian Voices , where you can listen to carriers from different parts of the country. The history of the development of Australian English at the university is studied by the records of the old-timers of the country. You can listen to them here .

Features of pronunciation

With the history and the main accents of Australian English sorted out, now let's talk more about its main features. How do we recognize the Australian?

1. Intonation

If you taught the classic low fall, high rise, and other intonational drawings for “twenty ways to say the word “ yes ” , then in Australia this is much easier. The intonation of the Australians is flat, with no drops and overestimations of the voice, very calm and, as the Australians themselves say, relaxed. Imagine a straight line - this is the model of the Australian intonation. However, this does not mean that the Australians do not express any emotions. Express, of course. It just doesn't sound the way the British or Americans would have sounded. It is also noted that some regional accents raise intonation, even if the proposal is affirmative.

2. Abbreviations

“Speak Aussie to me”. “I'm seeing him in the arvo”. “I had a sandwich for brekkie”. A characteristic feature of Australian English is the abbreviation of words. At the same time, there are no rules as such, and any word can be abbreviated. Most often, abbreviations end with –ie or –o . Of course, the main thing here is not to overdo it, but in general, you will quickly go beyond the local one if you don’t minted every syllable in a word. Defo, mate!

3. The sound “r” at the end of the word is missing

Almost as in British English, but if the British produce a neutral sound [ə], then the Australian end of the word will be much more pronounced, going into something between the sounds of [ʌ] and []. So it turns out [təˈgeðʌ] instead of [təˈɡɛðə].

4. [ai] turns into [ɔi]

“Write” will become “wroit” , “light” will become “loight” and so on. In fact, the sound [ɔ] is not clear, when pronouncing diphthong, your lips will be rounded, but you will not get a full-fledged [ɔi]. But teachers on stage speech advise starting to pronounce the Australian [ai] a bit exaggeratedly, uttering [ɔi], while listening to the speakers as much as possible and trying to imitate them.

5. [ei] turns into [ai]

“Day” sounds like [dai], and “mate” becomes [mait]. Especially well this difference is audible in Broad Australian carriers.

6. Clear [æ] becomes closed [e]

For Russian students, there is no problem here: in principle, it is hard for us to distinguish between the sounds. However, if you have trained your pronunciation and listening comprehension, you will most likely hear the difference between “that” and “thet” or “cat” and “cet” . Linguists point out that this change is purely regional, and not all Australians say so.

7. T at the end of the word is not pronounced

Remember that glottal stop , guttural bow? The sound, which is often pronounced by the British, replacing the sound [t] or double tt in words like bottle, little, right, great . If you forgot, here's a video from the carrier of the London dialect to remember. Australians do not utter the sound [t] at the end of a word at all. If you are accustomed to clearly pronounce all [t] in words like right, fight, light , then you will have to relearn and instead of a pure [t] use [ʔ], a guttural bow. So, the word right in Australian English will sound like [rɔiʔ].

8. The long sound changes [a]

Australian is considered the most relaxed accent among all variants of English. Beginners to learn Australian English are even recommended to “chew” words and utter them deliberately vaguely. There is no place for tense British [a:], Australians prefer to pronounce the sound [a] more “widely” and even with aspiration. It turns out not “can't ”, a “cahn't” .

9. Changes diphthong [əu]

The one that you hear in the word “no” . In the Australian version, this diphthong turns out not to be closed, but very relaxed, leaving “farther” in the mouth. If in the British version for pronouncing [əu] you need to use your lips, then in Australian it is pronounced differently, reminding “ao” . The best way to understand this is to listen carefully and look at the lips of the speakers when they utter the words with this sound.

10. Disappears [ŋ] at the end of a word

Good news for those who can not master this sound and utters an additional [k] or [g] at the end of words with the suffix –ing . In Australian English, no "inga" exists at all; all such words end in pure [n].

11. Short [i] can be pronounced as [ei]

In words like me or believe, you can hear an additional overtone between the consonant sound and [i]. It turns out something similar to [mei] and [beleiv].

12. The pronounced sound [u]

Almost like a Russian "y." In British and Americans, this sound is pronounced much less intensely, the lips are practically not involved and are not tense. In Australians, the sound is very pronounced.

13. Diphthong [iə] changes to [ia]

This is especially well heard in the word here . The British will pronounce it as [hiə], the Americans will add [r] at the end, but the Australians will literally take the sound to “ia” with the emphasis on “and”. In some regional variations, the diphthong is converted to a simple long [i:], and, for example, the word “near” will sound like [ni:].

14. Diphthong [eə] changes to [e:]

For example, in the word hair instead of diphthong, you will hear an unusual monophthong (unusual, because in the British standard the sound [e] is not long): [he:].

In addition to the phonetic features, Australian English is rich in lexical subtleties. If you plan to go to Australia to study or even want to move, be sure to learn the Australian slang - without it you risk not understanding a word. Remember that language is a living organism, it changes daily, and new words and especially slang can appear almost daily. Maintain language through talk shows, Australian channels on YouTube and Australian radio.

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