Accents differ depending on age and time as changes are constantly occurring in language. Accents can change due to external sources such as social and political circumstances or due to internal sources such as development of a person’s linguistic and phonetic knowledge. A combination of the above can cause a communities accent to change and these changes usually enter via dialect spoken by teenagers that wish to express their identity and distinguish themselves from previous generation.
The History of Australian English
Australian English is a relatively new dialect of English and is just over 200 years old. The Australian English dialect has developed as a result of contact between people speaking different variations of English that are mutually intelligible (able to understand each other).
The first form of the Australian English dialect would have been created and spoken by the children of the colonists born into the early colonies in Sydney. These children would have been exposed to a wide range of different dialects from all over England but mainly the south east, especially London. These children would have combined elements present in the speech they heard around them, in response to their need to express solidarity with the peers around them.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Australian English dialect was differentiated into a continuum of broadness based primarily on the pronunciation of the diphthongs. Accents varied, ranging from the most local type or the Broad Australian Accent through to the more British sounding type or Cultivated Australian accent. The General Australian Accent was the most common type and was an intermediate category between the two sides. The Broadness scale is based on a person’s pronunciation of six main vowels. These are the vowel sounds in the words “beat, boot, say, so, high, how”.
Over the past 40 years, Australian English speakers have gradually moved towards the center of this broadness continuum and the majority of younger Australian speakers today use a General Australian English accent. The shift away from the cultivated accent type is most likely related to shift in linguistic affiliation from a British external standard to an Australian internal standard of English. Australian English became increasingly accepted as the standard form of English used in Australia in the second half of the 20th Century. This acceptance was paralleled by Australian independence in a global marketplace.
Since the 1950’s, Australians have been changing some of the vowel sounds they previously shared with New Zealanders as well. The Multicultural influence over the decades however have also broadened the Australian accent with many variations of the accent now widely used depending on the person or community group’s cultural background.
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Fritz, C. W. A. (2007). From English in Australia to Australian English 1788-1900. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Moore, B. (2008). Speaking our language: The story of Australian English. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Cox, F., & Palethorpe, S. (2001). The changing face of Australian English vowels. In D. B. Blair & P. Collins (Eds.), Varieties of English Around the World: English in Australia (pp. 17-44). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Horvath, B. M. (1985). Variation in Australian English: The sociolects of Sydney. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.