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Department of Linguistics

regional accents

Click on the map to hear voices from different parts of Australia.

The differences in regional accents are explained below.

Also visit the ABC's Australian Word Map to find out about Australian regionalisms - words, phrases and expressions used by particular language groups.

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regional variation

Regional variation relates to speech characteristics that are common to people from different localities. They can serve as markers of regional identity.

In Australia there is not a lot of regionally-based accent variation compared with most other world Englishes, however, there are lots of vocabulary differences. See the ABC's Australian Word Map for some details.

examples

There are, however, a few regionally-distributed phonetic features. Here are some examples:

fear

Centring diphthongs: These are the vowels that occur in words like "ear", "beard" and "air", "scared". In these words, there may be a tendency for speakers from the eastern states to use centring diphthongs that are more like long monophthongs than vowels that are closer to true diphthongs or disyllables. Compare examples of the word "fear" as spoken in Western Australia and New South Wales.

salary vs. celery

For many young speakers from Victoria, the first vowel in "celery" and "salary" are the same, so that both words sound like "salary". Listen to the word "helicopter" in the sentence "Sharon watched the helicopter as it lifted off the deck" as spoken in Victoria and in New South Wales. The speaker from Victoria says "halicopter". This feature is present in New Zealand English as well.

For some older speakers from Victoria, the words "celery" and "salary" also sound the same but instead both sound like "celery". Listen to the word "alps". The speaker from Victoria says "elps" compared to the speaker from NSW.

school

The vowel in words like "pool", "school" and "fool" varies regionally. Listen to examples of the word "school" from a Queenslander and a South Australian.

hurled

The tendency for some /l/ sounds to become vowels (/l/ vocalisation) is more common in South Australia than other states. The example of "hurled" from South Australia has a vocalised /l/ whereas the example from New South Wales does not. For the New South Wales speaker the /l/ is pronounced as a consonant.

france

In Australian English, words vary regionally according to the type of vowel that occurs before the sounds "ns, nt, nch, mple", in words like "chance, plant, branch, sample" and in words containing the suffix "-mand", e.g., "demand". The typical pronunciation for this vowel is the short /æ/ vowel like the vowel in "cat" but there are many speakers who use the vowel in "cart" in these words, particularly in South Australia. Click to hear "France". The short samples are from Queensland, the long from South Australia. The long vowel is also used in New Zealand. This is probably the result of later settlement.

South Australia had a different settlement chronology and type than other parts of the country and does appear to have a number of regionally-based features.

References:

Borowsky, T. (2001). The vocalisation of dark l in Australian English. In D. Blair & P. Collins (Eds.), Varieties of English Around the World: English in Australia (pp. 69-88). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Borowsky, T., & Horvath, B. (1997). L-vocalisation in Australian English. In F. Hinskens, R. van Hout, & W. L. Wetzels (Eds.), Variation, change and phonological theory (pp. 101-123). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bradley, D. (2004). Regional characteristics of Australian English: Phonology. In E. W. Schneider, K. Burridge, B. Kortmann, R. Mesthrie, & C. Upton (Eds.), A handbook of varieties of English: A multimedia reference tool: Vol. 1 (pp. 645-655). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Butcher, A. (2007). Formant frequencies of /hVd/ vowels in the speech of South Australian females. In P. Warren & C. I. Watson (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science & Technology, 6-8 December 2006 (pp. 449-453). Auckland, New Zealand.

Cox, F., & Palethorpe, S. (2004). The border effect: Vowel differences across the NSW/Victorian border. In C. Moskovsky (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2003 conference of the Australian Linguistics Society (pp. 1-14). http://www.als.asn.au

Horvath, B., & Horvath, R. (2001). Short A in Australian English: A geolinguistic study. In D. B. Blair & P. Collins (Eds.), Varieties of English around the world: English in Australia (pp. 341-354). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Horvath, B., & Horvath, R. (2002). The geolinguistics of /l/ vocalisation in Australia and New Zealand. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 6, 319-346.

Oasa, H. (1989). The phonology of current Adelaide English. In P. Collins & D. Blair (Eds.), Australian English: The language of a new society (pp. 271-287). St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.