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Department of Linguistics

Why do accents change?

Accents change through social influences (which are external to the linguistic system) and through phonetic processes (which are internal to the linguistic system). It is a combination of these two forces that create change. Linguistic change follows cultural change so any social or political events can potentially affect our identity and hence our language. The Australian shift away from Britain during the second half of the 20th century has probably had the effect of making Australians feel more globally independent and more mature as a nation. We have now adopted Australian English as our own internal standard dialect whereas 50 years ago we were still looking to Britain for the external standard.