Skip to Content

Department of Linguistics

What are the main differences between the Australian accent from 50 years ago and the one that we have today?

There have been a number of interesting changes particularly to the vowel sounds. For instance, the vowel in a word like “bat” is now more like the vowel in “but”, but 50 years ago this same vowel was more like the vowel in the word “bet”.

The “oh” sound in a word like “hope” has changed as well. It used to be a combination of the vowels in “putt” and “put”. Try saying the vowel in “putt” and then move quickly to the vowel in “put” and you’ll have the old way of saying “oh”. One of the newer ways to say this vowel is a sequence of the “pot” vowel then the “boot” vowel.

There have also been changes to some of the consonant sounds. The “l” sound at the end of words is now sometimes pronounced as a vowel sound like the vowel in “put” or “cook”. For instance, “milk” may be pronounced as “miook”.

The “t” in “water” is now often pronounced more like a “d”. This is called “flapping” and happens when the “t” occurs between two vowel sounds if the first vowel is a stressed vowel.

There is greater use of the “High Rising Tune” which is a tendency for speakers to use rising intonation even for some statements.

The “oo” sound in the words “pool” and “school”, where the “oo” comes before an “l” sound, used to be like the vowel in “food” but for young people today it is usually more like the vowel in “pull”.

There used to be more “cultivated” or “posh” sounding speakers than there are today and also more “broad” or “ocker” sounding speakers.