The 3 Types of Australian Accents



The Australian Accent is renowned for its lack of regional differences.  This is perhaps not surprising given that Britain settled the country fairly late in the history of the Empire (New South Wales was discovered over a decade after America’s Declaration of Independence).  But it isn’t quite right to say Australian Accents exhibit no variation: those differences just aren’t particularly regional.

So if Australian accents don’t really vary by region, what kind of accent differences do exist?  I’d refer you to the loose classification system developed by linguists Arthur Delbridge and A.G. Mitchell in 1965.   They separated Australian Accents into broad, general, and cultivated varieties.

Roughly speaking, General accents represent the most common type of English spoken in Australia.  Broad accents are usually described as more extreme (and associated with more working-class speech), while Cultivated Australian accents are a prestige variety somewhat closer to the British Received Pronunciation (although actual speakers of the latter are in the minority).

For a frame or reference, these corresponding celebrities might help:

1.) Broad: the late Steve Irwin.
2.) General: Australian PM Julia Gillard.
3.) Cultivated: Cate Blanchett. (Blanchett’s somewhat more “British-Sounding” accent may be a result of her being an actress, but her speech nonetheless resembles this type of elevated Australian speech).

You may disagree with my judgements here, and that’s fine.*  Australian English is clearly a continuum, and these three categories are rough markers on that continuum.  So how do we sort Australian Accents into these boxes?

A 1997 study in the Australian Journal of Linguistics** offered more precise parameters. The researchers started by making impressionistic judgements about a large number of recorded Australian subjects, placing them into the Broad, General and Cultivated categories. They then analyzed the vowel sounds of these speakers to specify which features correspond to each type of accent.

The results are not terribly surprising.  The further on the Broad end of the spectrum that an accent lies, the more markedly, well, “Australian” the features of said accent.  Here are the biggest factors:

–The diphthong in “kite,” “ride,” “mine” etc.  The more Broad the accent gets, the more this moves toward the diphthong in words like “choice” (i.e. retracted and raised).  Hence a Cultivated Australian speaker might pronounce “buy” somewhat close to an RP or General American speaker (i.e. IPA baɪ).  A Broad speaker, on the other hand, might pronounce it closer to American “boy” (i.e. IPA bɒe).

–The vowel in “mouth,” “loud” and “out,” etc.  The more Broad the accent, the more the first part of this diphthong moves toward the “e” in “dress.”  So a Cultivated speaker might have a diphthong closer to GenAm or RP (i.e. IPA ), while a Broad speaker might pronounce it closer to an “eh-aw” sound (i.e. IPA ɛɔ).

Other features include:

–Words like “fleece,” “keep,” etc. are a more pronounced diphthong in Broad Australian accents.
–Words like “face”, and “make” move closer to the diphthong in American/RP “kite” in broad accents.
–Words like “goose” and “food” have a fronter “oo” vowel (presumably closer to IPA ʏ) in Broad accents.

If you’re already acquainted with the shibboleths of the Australian accent, none of this is particularly revealing. I was, however, struck by some interesting differences between men and women. For example, the researchers found more variation in pronunciation of the word “heard” (i.e. the NURSE vowel) among women, but significantly more variation among the word “who’d” (i.e. the GOOSE vowel) in men.  So although there are clear class differences within the Australian accents of both genders, these differences are not the same for each sex.

Still unclear to me, though, is the degree to which the Australian accent has developed regional varieties.  We’ve had past discussions about the TRAP-BATH split in Australia, which seems to be the main division between various regions in the country.  For the most part, however, I only have the vaguest of observations to offer about regional Australian accents (for example, the Melbourne accent seems slightly “clipped” to me).

In this way, Australia exhibits a paradox similar to another of the commonwealth’s largest nations, Canada.  Both countries have populations distributed over vast geographical distances, yet have startlingly few regional dialects.  What accounts for this contradiction?

*I’m mostly basing this on the degree/frequency to which each speaker retracts and raises the first vowel in words like “price,” “ride,” etc.  There’s obviously a lot of variation within the speech of individual speakers.

**Citation:  Harrington, J., Cox, F., Evans, Z (1997).  An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English Vowels.  Australian Journal of Linguistics 17, 155-184.


About Ben

Ben T. Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.
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55 Responses to The 3 Types of Australian Accents

  1. Lauren says:

    One of the main reasons often touted for our lack of accent diversity is that Australia was invented only a short time before broadcast media, so there was never a great chance of drifting off into different dialects.

    People like to claim there are regional differences – mostly these are impressionistic, such things like “Queenslanders speak more nasal-y” and “people from Adelaide have weird vowels.” One regional variation that has received a lot of attention lately is the lack of al/el distinction in Melbourne. Fully (sic) had a post about it a while ago:

    … and as a Malbernian I’m always being called up on it.

    • trawicks says:

      Isn’t L-vocalization a bit more common in Melbourne as well? It’s mentioned as a feature of South Australian accents in this Wikipedia article. I wouldn’t be surprised if the feature was common in Victoria as well.

    • Simon says:

      Given that the Australian accent was pretty settled in the nineteenth century, electronic broadcast media are unlikely to be an influence.

      More important was the fact that most communication between the various Australian colonies was by ship and therefore was fast and frequent, due to it being possible to sail right around Australia. This was not the case in the US or Canada, where most communication was overland and so slow. This may help explain why there is in fact more regional variation in Canada than Australia, for example the Maritime provinces versus the western prairies. The relative uniformity across the prairies to the west coast of Canada may have been influenced by those areas becoming more populated following the development of railways.

  2. Marc L says:

    About 20 years ago I dropped out for a month and went “walk-about” in Australia. In the course of my travels, which included Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Brisbane and Surfers Paradise (near Brisbane), I spoke the many Australians, and the division into social classes seems to me to be correct. The accent ranged from working class – similar to cockney – up to quasi-RP. Interestingly, when I’ve bumped into people in the US who I thought were Australian, more often than not, they’ve turned out to be working class Brits.

    • Austin says:

      I bet they were working class English people. Working class Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish people would of course sound very different from Aussies. Your comment reminds me that it can be hard for many North Americans to tell the difference between Aussie accents and working class English accents like Cockney and Brummie. I’ve had trouble in the past too. But the major differences I’ve noticed are:

      1. Aussie English has very little glottaling/glottalization. Those other accents have lots of it, especially with /t/, and it’s probably increasing with time.

      2. Instead, Aussie English often has T voicing, which is like North American accents of English. Also, like NorAm accents, /t/ may be elided after /n/, as in winter [wɪnə] (possibly making it homophonous with winner). These things can happen occasionally in English speech, but they’re not nearly as common there.

      3. Another similarity with NorAm accents is that the /l/ is dark (specifically pharyngealized) in all positions in AusEng. This makes words like silly [sɪɫi] and left [ɫeft] sound pretty different from how they sound in Cockney or Brummie. Relatedly, in my experience l-vocalization is much less common in AusEng than in the other 2 accents.

      4. In AusEng, GOAT and GOOSE generally sound quite different from those vowels in Cockney and Brummie to my ears. GOAT (which has attracted much comment) is often something like [ɐɨ] and I don’t how I would describe GOOSE. Maybe [ɪ̈ɨ] .

      There are other differences too of course (labiodental /r/, northEng BATH and STRUT in Brum, fronted BATH-PALM-START in AusEng and use of TRAP in nasal + other C clusters in cert regs, weak vowl merg, h-drop rare in Aus, intonation, etc.), but I didn’t want this list to be too long. John Wells sums up the differences pretty well here in both PDF and Powerpoint format. But it still can be hard to distinguish them, especially if you only hear the person speak for a short time.

      • trawicks says:

        A slight issue in making the distinction is that Brits who have spent a long time in the States will sometimes adopt American features that make them sound vaguely Australian. Besides t-vocalization t-voicing, Brits who pick up American prosodic features may also seem a bit Aussie.

      • trawicks says:

        Forgot to mention one thing about the GOAT vowel: as per the study I linked to in the original post, it seems to exhibit a lot of allophony based on where it appears in a vowel. Before alveolars, for example, the diphthong shows more of a forward trajectory (maybe something like [ɐʏ]?) Although I don’t think this is exclusively Australian: I’ve noticed similar allophones in American accents that front the GOAT vowel.

        • Austin says:

          “Besides t-vocalization, Brits who pick up American prosodic features may also seem a bit Aussie.”

          I think you mean t-voicing, right? I guess you could call it vocalization too, because vocal and voiced (and vowel) are related words in the end ( < Latin vōx I believe). But yes, I agree that that make an Englishman(woman) sound more Aussie. I think that Aussie actually sounds like Cockney combined with American, because of the features I mentioned.

          “Forgot to mention one thing about the GOAT vowel: as per the study I linked to in the original post, it seems to exhibit a lot of allophony based on where it appears in a vowel.”

          In my experience, it exhibits allophony in most places. It seems pretty similar to GOOSE in that respect. I have a pretty GenAm accent and I wouldn’t say tool with the same allophone I use in you, for example. I wouldn’t use the same allophone in goal as I would in go either. I have heard a few exceptions to this, like an old RP accent, where they’ll say [ɡəʊɫ] for goal. According to one phonetician, in Scouse it can be [ɡɛul] or even [ɡëʊl]! I’ve also heard some Southerners do this with GOOSE, so tool is [tʉːɫ]. They may front GOAL as well, though I’m less certain on that.

          “Although I don’t think this is exclusively Australian: I’ve noticed similar allophones in American accents that front the GOAT vowel.”

          You may be right. But it’s funny to me that I’ve heard so many Americans and Brits comment on the Aussie GOAT vowel and nothing else about Aussie speech. I tend to assume that if someone is commenting on a feature in someone else’s speech, they and the people around them must not have said feature in their own speech.

          BTW, Aussie GOAT also sounds very much like Northern Irish MOUTH too. On that note, I think it’s time to take a break for a while. I’ve forgotten what the sun and the sky look like 🙂

        • trawicks says:

          Sorry, had vocalization on the brain after a previous comment!

          I’m curious if [ɡɛul] in Scouse is a hibernacism. I think Scouse would otherwise exhibit some degree of l-coloring, so it’s perhaps a faint trace of Irish “aul?” On the other hand, Scouse is noted for an unusually front realization of the GOAT vowel for a Northern Accent–I’ve read a study that actually phonemicizes it as [ɛʉ].

          “I tend to assume that if someone is commenting on a feature in someone else’s speech, they and the people around them must not have said feature in their own speech.”

          Of course, much of what we think of as typical of “Aussie” is typical of other accents as well. The Aussie vowel shift (if it can be called that) is very similar to the American Southern, Birmingham and London vowel shifts. If there’s any uniqueness in the Australian pronunciation of GOAT, it’s that I’d hazard to guess it has a slightly longer onglide than accents with similar GOAT diphthongs.

        • Austin says:

          *…agree that that CAN make an Englishman(woman)…

          And one last thing. I think I or someone else linked to this on this blog a while back, but if you look at this table in A Handbook of Varieties of English, you’ll see that they do mention [ɜy] as a realization of GOAT for younger Southerners. This is very close to the allophone you mentioned. But they mention backer allophones in both the GOAL and GOING (whatever that means) classes. And the “typical” Ohioan here (probably from the Midland) has some very interesting realizations for GOAT, according to the people who phonetically transcribed it anyway.

    • Austin says:

      Another thing I’ve noticed from listening to those clips and other clips of Aussies speaking is that Aussie FOOT seems to be especially far back/rounded. This reminds me of how Aussie KIT, at the other end of the vowel space, is especially front/close. I have seen anyone else comment on this though.

  3. m.m. says:

    YES! nobody’s posted it yet! *wait, laurens blog post links to it, darn, nvm*

    Along with the “al/el distinction in Melbourne” [salary-celery merger] Lauren mentions, they bring up other regional vowel variations that are popping up.

    Canada isn’t that homogeneous either. Especially on the atlantic providences. I don’t think we give either of these countries enough credit for having some accent diversity P:

    • trawicks says:

      Nice find! I’m a little curious as to why “helicopter” is a featured word: evidence of the presence/absence of the weak vowel merger?

      • dw says:

        In Victoria, the first vowel of “helicopter” sounds like the TRAP vowel. Presumably a reference to the aforementioned “salary-celery merger”.

  4. Brett says:

    I think Julia Gillard has a ‘broad’ accent, not a ‘general’ one. In fact, she has been accused of deliberately broadening her accent to make her appear more working class. (Apparently her accent is nothing like that of her Adelaide classmates.)

    Sticking to political examples, I’d say:
    – broad: Julia Gillard
    – general: Tony Abbott
    – cultivated: Malcolm Fraser (I can’t really think of any contemporary examples)

    • Richard says:

      cultivated: Geoffrey Rush?

    • Deb says:

      Yes, Julia Gillard is broad, for sure.
      Adelaide has it’s own accent – it’s more English but also slightly speech-impediment sounding (sorry I haven’t analysed the exact nature of that impediment or I would describe it more politely). See Christopher Pyne for a political example..

  5. Ellen K. says:

    I don’t think the Julia Gillard video was a good example, because it’s a speech, and thus very clearly not an example of how people in Austalia commonly speak. I’d like an example that, like the other two, is a conversation. Where would you say the interviewer, Andrew Denton, fits into the continuum? He does seem to me to be somewhere between the accents of Steve Irwin and of Cate Blanchett. And it’s much easier for me to see the continuum with him as the middle example than it is with Julia Gillard giving a speech as the middle example.

    • Ellen K. says:

      P.S. That’s coming from someone not very familiar with Australian accents, reading this to learn.

  6. trawicks says:


    Thanks for the insight! Just watched this video of Malcolm Fraser. I would definitely agree with your assessment: the diphthong he uses for the PRICE vowel is very “tight,” almost verging on a U-RP type pronunciation.


    I’d say Denton is mostly General, with maybe a few cultivated features thrown in the mix. But you’re right, he’d probably work as a middle example as well.

  7. Pingback: American-educated Filipino-Canadian academic claims Canadian English can’t be defined  ¶  Personal Weblog of Joe Clark, Toronto

  8. lingust says:

    Thanks for the information, but can anybody reload 1 and 3 videos? They are not available 🙁

  9. Ian says:

    Julia Gillard has a “general Australian” accent? I beg to disagree, that’s way off the mark. I’ve spoken to many people who find her accent anything but general. Even as a born anglo-heritage Australian, I can’t mimic that accent. Sorry if the rest of the world thinks she’s representative.

  10. Francisco says:

    As a sixth generation sydneysider, I can not ignore the founder effect in looking at regional accents in Australia… most clearly in the differences between Adelaide (middle class and Protestant) and Sydney and Brisbane (lower middles class, and working class with more catholics from Ireland). But more interesting to me are the changes of subsequent migrations of other native English speakers. I find increasingly that native born people form Perth have a more South African sounding speech ( than general Australian) , while native born from the Gold Coast often have some New Zealand sounding pronunciation. In both cases large intakes of other-accented native born English Speaking immigrants (including a fair number of teachers) seems to have had an effect on the receiving accent in Australia.

  11. Amanda Lissarrague says:

    There’s no mention of Aboriginal English in this article. Differences between Aboriginal English and Australian English are found in pronunciation (including word stress), grammar, meaning, vocabulary, use and style. Aboriginal English has very low status in Australia. The lack of dialectal variation and awareness amongst the dominant culture leads to the perception that Aboriginal English is an inferior form of Australian English, not a dialect with a history and relationships with both English and traditional Aboriginal languages.

    • ari corcoran says:

      I would go further than Amanda, and say there is a number of Aboriginal Englishes. It is easy, for example, to distinguish someone from Broome, North Queensland, Torres Strait or Western New South Wales. There are differences in vocabulary, accent (for want of a better word) stress and so on. In fact there is a far greater regionalisation of “Aboriginal English” than among whitefellas.

  12. Paul urban & middle-class Australian says:

    I would disagree classifying Julia Gillard’s accent as General. She speaks in Broad Australian to enhance her working-class credibility as a Labor Party politician; Bob Hawke did the same thing. Naturally, it is an affectation and a pretence, but it is an accepted practice within the Australian Labor Party. The Australian urban middle-class accent, which would be classified as General, is quite a neutral and understated accent, and in its purest form, not unpleasant to listen to. Many middle-class Australians also have a tendency to speak in a slight drawl which further softens the accent.

  13. Inchoative says:

    Paul (or any other Australian),
    How would you classify the announcer in this hilarious clip from We Can Be Heroes:

    As an American I certainly recognize it as Australian, but find it quite bizarre and assume most people there don’t speak this way.

    • Moonfriend says:

      It’s Jennifer Byrne, ABC presenter. Her accent is between general and cultivated, I think.

      I’m from Melbourne, and most people here speak general, and depending on the situation, will switch up and down the spectrum. It’s funny that in certain situations, some people will rhyme ‘chance’ with ‘pants’ and at other times with ‘aunts’. The ‘aunts’ pronunciation is considered posher, more aspirational or more wanky.

      • Sue says:

        I am from Adelaide and we use long vowels, so we say chance, France, sample, example, transport etc with a long ‘a’ as in aunt. We don’t do it to sound posh or wanky, it’s just the way we speak here. People from NSW or Queensland often ask me if I am English because of my Adelaide accent.

        • Sue says:

          I should add that our Prime Minister Julia Gillard grew up about a kilometre from where I live and her accent is like no other Adelaide accent I have ever heard.

  14. Moonfriend says:

    Sorry, I meant that pronunciation is considered either posher, more wanky or more aspirational in Melbourne. I realise it’s different in SA.

  15. Ngamudji says:

    It is astonishing that anyone could think that Julia Gillard’s accent is general Australian. Her accent is very much at the ‘broad’ end of the spectrum. In fact, I can’t think of any prominent person with an accent more broad than hers.

    For general Australian speech, Cate Blanchett is an excellent example. No offence, but I wouldn’t classify her accent as refined — it is a general middle class Melbourne accent. You might remember Richard Butler, who was well-known a few years ago for his role as a UN ambassador carrying out weapons inspections in Iraq. His accent is also general Australian.

    For a refined Australian accent, the best example is probably Malcolm Fraser. This YouTube clip of an interview with him has good examples of both general Australian (the interviewer) and refined (Fraser):

  16. Rachel says:

    While I agree with the three accents mentioned – broad, general, and cultivated – I’d definitely argue that there are also regional accents (in the general, and even moreso in the broad). I can pick a Sydneysider from a Victorian from a South Aussie, for example. Here are the main ways:

    – the “a” sound. South Australians will almost always use a long “aah” sound in words like graph, dance, advance, example, branch, grass, and so on. People from the Eastern states will use a short “a” like “cat”.

    – the long “oo” sound. The New South Welsh, and to a lesser extent the Victorians, vocalise something that sounds a lot like “oo-wa” to a South Aussie. My sister and I (Adelaide) used to giggle at my aunt (Sydney) for saying things like “poo-well” and “skoo-weel” for pool and school.

    – “l” when it falls in the middle of a word. South Australians don’t say it – “ray-roe” for railroad, “miwk” for milk, “Wiw-yam” for William, and so on.

    – the a/e mix-up. This is useful for identifying Victorians. Older Victorians will pronounce a lot of words with an “e” sound – bouncy kessle (not castle), they earn a selery as well as eating it, and so on. Younger Victorians will pronounce everything with an “a” sounds – castle, salary (and calery, the food), etc. (To a South Australian, Victorian vowel are all over the place. We sometimes say they’re halfway to New Zealand in terms of vowels).

    Then, of course, there are the general impressions that have been mentioned – Sydneysiders talk through their nose, and people from the country don’t open their mouths, and so on.

    That said, there’s definitely less regional variation than other countries – like the US and Britain. There are fewer people in Australia, and moving between states and regions is common. Most of the differences are certainly in terminology rather than pronunciation – bathers verses swimmers verses togs, fritz verses devon verses luncheon, deli verses milk bar.

    As for Julia Gillard – don’t anyone believe that she’s typical of a South Australian, and particularly not an Adelaidean. I live very close to where she allegedly grew up (two suburbs over) and she sounds nothing like what people in that area sound like. At all.

    And about the “cultivated” accent – That doesn’t have regional variations. For me, it sounds an awful lot like RP – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same thing. That’s characterised by more of the long “aah” sounds, and more y-glides. Australian, of course, has more y-glides than American (new, tune, due) but less than an RP accent. You’ll notice in the video above, Malcolm Fraser says “diluted” at 1:24 for a y-glide.

    Anyway, I hope what I’ve said makes sense. It’s just a couple of observations I’ve made about the accents. I always get annoyed when people say there isn’t any variation in Australian accents, because there is – not just between the three “social” accents, but regional ones, too. Most South Aussies are able to identify a Victorian within a few minutes.

    • Ralph says:

      I’m not originally from Australia and even I can pick out a South Australian based on his/her accent. To me that accent is one of the most distinctive ones in Australia. The thing they do with their L’s is part of it, like you said. The technical term for that is “vocalization” (see the glossary). But I’ve also heard it elsewhere in Australia. My impression is that it’s more common with young people. South Aussies seem to do it the most. I’ve also noticed their O’s in words like “go”, “snow”, etc are a bit different. I’m not sure how to describe that difference though.

      There is also an ethnic accent in Sydney and maybe elsewhere. I’ve heard it from Asian, Middle Eastern and Greek kids. Some young “Anglo-Saxons” may have some aspects of it too though. I’ve noticed that they sometimes say “are-ah” [eːriɑ̟ː] for “area” and “teach-ahh” [tiːt͡ʃɑ̟ː] for “teacher”. They also tend to say “dis and dat” for “this and that” Their speech also seems to have a different rhythm.

      • Rachel says:

        There’s a rumour that call centres used to hire staff from South Australia because the accent is “milder” to a non-Australian. I don’t have a typical Australian accent – my parents are from England – so the South Australian accent difference is useful excuse to use overseas when people wonder why I don’t sound the way they expect an Aussie to sound.

        I’d actually never noticed the L thing until recently. Actually, just a couple of weeks ago I was volunteering at a camp with a staff member named Will. Every single one of the Australian-born kids (there was one English kid on the camp) said his name with the same sound at the end as at the beginning.

        I didn’t think it could be “vocalisation” since that to me is more of a vowel-sound thing than a consonant-sound thing. (German for “vowel” is “Vokal”).

        Yes, I think it’s getting more common with young people from other states, but I’ve heard it from people of all ages in SA.

        Ah, I know what you mean. I grew up in an area where just about everyone had Italian parents/grandparents and that accent is very distinctive. It’s getting less common with teenagers, but you can still hear it from people even in their twenties – they sound generally Australian, but there’s just something there you can’t quite put your finger on.

        Australian accents are non-rhotic (obviously), but sometimes I think Australian is even *more* non-rhotic than a lot of other accents, particularly the very Australian sounding people (ocker, you define it as “broad”). Words that are written with “er” at the end can be vocalised with a very distinctive short “uh” or “ah”, it almost seems to have a semi-glottal-ish type stop at the end. Hard to describe.

  17. josh says:

    Julia Gillard is a VERY bad example of the general Australian accent. She is more representative of the Victorian lower socio-economic accent. Not occer or rural like Steve Irwin and certainly not the general Australian accent.

    Also people from Sydney speak quicker than those from Melbourne. Some Melbournians have difficulty understanding fast-talking people from Sydney.

  18. Jordan Philip says:

    God there is definitely an accent difference between the states. As being raised up in Perth, I got the slang dialect (although I do talk quite proper, with advanced vocabulary compared to my peers – being 15 years old). I recently moved to England, and everyone at my school tries to impersonate the swingy Eastern accent. I try to correct this, saying that we have the slangy accent and we sound nothing like our posh cousins. I suppose their understanding of the accent is from the fact that 99% the television related media comes from Sydney and surrounding cities. We have a bit of the Aboriginal/yobbo accent in our accent (since Perth is a very regional city). I then go on to explain that it is like saying there’s no difference between a Yorkshire dialect and one from London, where they burst in a fit of rage spurting something about pikies (gypsies to everyone else). I’d have to say that I like the South Australian accent the most, because it’s not as native as one from Western/Northern Australia, but it’s not posh and snobby like in the East. Sometimes I have to slip a slight British pronunciation in some of my sentences because I’m a little ashamed of the ‘lax accents of the West that I speak.

  19. Robert says:

    As a third generation Melbournian, I agree with @Moonfriend about inconsistency in the trap/bath split in Melbourne amongst individual speakers. I think this is common in the ‘general’ register and often depends on who the audience is.

    I am not sure about @Rachel’s idea that the salary/celery merge in Melbourne is determined by age — don’t know what others think.

    I have noticed that many Sydneysiders rhyme ‘worry’ with ‘sorry’ rather than with ‘curry’. Would this be English dialect influence? Some also seem to insert a syllable in certain words so that ‘grown’ sounds like ‘growen’, ‘withdrawal’ like ‘withdrawral’.. Ex pm John Howard is an example.

    Young Australians almost universally give a full value to syllables that were originally a schwa or not pronounced: ‘ceremony’ as ‘ceremoany’ ; ‘comparable’ as ‘compareable’ rather than ‘comprable’. Young people also seem to pronounce Australia as ‘Ostrellyeeya’.

    I thought the pronunciation of ‘clerk’ to rhyme with ‘jerk’ rather than ‘dark’ was a feature of broad speech, or influence of American media, but recently hear heard contestants on a British quiz show with northern accents pronounce this the same way.

    As a non-expert, interested to hear any comments from linguists.

    • DfNZ says:

      “Some also seem to insert a syllable in certain words so that ‘grown’ sounds like ‘growen’, ‘withdrawal’ like ‘withdrawral’.. ”

      Those are very typical New Zealand pronunciations. I’ve never heard of Australians resurrecting the groan/grown split. Is this a case of parallel evolution?

  20. John says:

    Interesting discussion. Where to start? The only regional difference that I’m constantly aware of is the dance/darnce example. Words like Growen (grown) and fillum (film) I’m not sure are regional differences in any broad sense. As for salary/celery, as a Victorian, I’ve never paid much attention. I have to admit, I pronounce them the same way. I now live in Newcastle NSW. When I was in Vic I’d have pronounced it New Cassel every time. Now, its New Carsel. But, interestingly, the Newcastle in the UK, pronounces itself a little bit differently to both of these from what I’ve heard. Just goes to show there are no regulations in these matters. And that’s not such a bad thing. Also Rachel, Victorians above the age of four don’t refer to a railroad as a ‘ray-roe’ either. Haven’t a clue where you plucked that one from.

    • AUS says:

      ‘ray-roe’ would be doubly odd as calling it a railroad would be considered an americanism here (though there might be pockets where this is wrong, if so, i havent encountered them). It’d just be called a railway, or more correctly, a railway line.

  21. Terry says:

    As a resident of Sydney, I can distinctly recognise a person from Adelaide or Perth immediately from their accent. To my ear, there are striking differences in the accents of the three regions. As a good example of a Perth WA accent, listen to Kim Hughes, the former Australian cricket captain. I have relatives in Perth who sound similar.

    To say that there are 3 accents of broad, general and cultivated is far too simplistic.
    I also suggest that Kate Blanchett is a poor example to use, given she most likely would have developed her accent through many years plying her acting trade. A bit like Kylie Monague et al, altering their voices to appear to the thespian world that they are worldly and cultured!

  22. AUDIO NOIR says:

    I’ve been to OZ a few times (once for six months) and the one thing that really surprised me was how American alot of people are starting to sound. People in other countries pick up alot of American vocabulary and slang from all the endless American media (movies, TV, etc.) but as in the U.K. the basic accent itself is not really affected.

    In Australia, however, the basic accent itself is in many cases starting to alter. Though I would not say the “Australian accent” is anywhere near dying out the basic rhythm seems to sound increasingly “Yankee” in alot of folk. Above all else rhoticity, though far from ubiquitous, was far more common than I ever expected.

    Though one would never say it was exactly the same to my Yankee ears Australian, Kiwi and South African all sound far more English than any American accents and when I went there that’s exactly what I expected as had always been my experience with ‘Commonwealth” peoples up to that time both in person and through the media. When I actually arrived there, though, I was shocked how much “Yankeeism” I encountered in the speech. A certain number even pronounced “hundred” as “hunnerd” which is about as American as it gets.

    As for the 3 different main Australian accents I’d say that like anywhere else some people have heavier accents and some people lighter and very often this seems to be a matter of personal taste as anything else. Like in the U.S. accent in Australia doesn’t seem to “define” you anywhere near like it does in the U.K. In either country there really is no equivalent of “BBC English” not even for politicians or celebrities. This is probably because the are much younger countries I would guess. No matter where you are, though, generally speaking you will find males have heavier accents, swear more and use alot more slang and are much more dedicated to their “regionalisms” than females.

  23. mickdawson says:

    I’m afraid there’s only one accent all the way across Australia. As I’m born and bred here I can testify to the fact. For a time, I was in the army and met Aussies from every part of the country – no variation, except that some of the most remote country areas tended to speak a bit more slowly.
    On a one to one basis, you’re average Aussie is quite an intelligent person, but as a society, I must admit my countrymen have the IQ of an oyster. We tend to believe and copy anything the Yanks tell us. The first time I was told we had different accents was from a Yank woman approximately 15 – 20 years ago. I was astounded at the time that a foreigner could get off a plane and tell me this as if it was a fact. To compound her assumption further, she informed me that I had a broad Queensland accent. Oddly, she didn’t baulk at all, even when I told her I was brought up less than a half hour from where we spoke in the Sydney suburb of Mt Druitt. Since that time, the myth has perpetuated into an accepted fact; sadly, even by my countrymen.
    If I may, I’ll correct you on a few minor issues. You point out in your document that there are three accents…Steve Irwin – Broad, Julia Gillard – General, and Cate Blanchett cultivated. They’re all the same. What you’re confusing with accents are people who speak on varying articulate levels.
    As for Australia not having an accent …that’s just a bit of foreign paranoia. Originally it was a joke told by Gary McDonald (Norman Gunstan) on his show. But just to explain, any immediate vicinity in the world, is the local standard of speech, therefore any visitor outside that vicinity, has the accent.

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  27. Haz Canaz says:

    Can somebody email and let me know when the first ever Australian English accent was noticed?

    If Australia was settled by whities in 1788, and sound was first recorded 1860, would I be right to assume that the accent appeared before 1860, so would the evidence be recorded in writing?

    Did the accent develop as a result of aborigine influence, or what was the cause for divergence from the British version?



  28. zjohn4 says:

    I dont think Cate Blanchett’s accent can be attributed to her acting career, since I speak just the same as her, except Ive never acted and live in Brisbane all my life. I would say parents maybe? My fathers parents were from UK, so that probably was it, but [complicated…]

  29. Pubes McKinley says:

    There’s actually a fourth Australian accent nowadays, which we might vaguely term Vegan Hipster Melbourne Douche, at least until something better comes along. Here’s an example:

    Granted, that’s not a real accent in that video, it’s a humourous impression. But I can assure you, it’s absolutely spot on. It’s not even exaggerated!

    I don’t know how it came about, but it seems to have arrived in the last ten years or so. It’s like a degraded “cultivated” accent. And it’s only used by people who listen to bands you’ve never heard of. I assume it’s just a weird pretence that got out of hand: oh, yah, check it out guys, I’m so underground I don’t even talk normally. Whatever.

    It’s actually spread outside Melbourne now, but Melbourne remains the Australian hipster mecca, so the association is fair.


    And now that I think about it, there’s actually a fifth Australian accent… the Vaguely Mediterranean Hybrid Accent. To my ears, at least, Australians of vaguely Mediterranean extraction – Greeks, Italians, Middle Easterners, etc – develop the same distinct accent, or at least, it modifies their Australian accent in similar ways. See:

    Again, that’s a comedy show, but it’s not really that exaggerated. (Probably a little NSFW, too)

    And as somebody else pointed out, Aboriginals have a different accent too.

    You know what, even though I agree with the basic categorisation above, perhaps it’d be more correct to say that Australian accents merely exist on something of a continuum. It’s all the same accent really, just influenced by class, education, and ethnicity.

    (Education is definitely a factor, too. Cate Blanchett’s accent comes naturally to those who live in “posh” suburbs, but I think it can also be acquired by going to drama school. She probably sounded like Julia Gillard when she was 16.)

    Sorry for rambling. Cool site. Btw source: I live in Perth