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Department of Linguistics


Australian English Diphthongs

Robert Mannell and Felicity Cox

Figure 1: The diphthongs of Australian English. The vowels on this diagram are based on an acoustic analysis of Australian English vowels by Cox (1996). The acoustic data for her male subjects have been translated into an "auditory" representation for display on a cardinal vowel diagram. These vowel positions represent typical vowel productions by young Australian speakers from Sydney in the early 1990s.

The following diagram (figure 2) displays the Cox's original acoustic data together with the data of Bernard (1970). In this diagram the two dimensions represent resonances (formants), or spectral peaks, in the vowel acoustic spectrum. The first formant (F1) correlates negatively with vowel height and the second formant (F2) correlates with vowel fronting. See also Cox (1999).

Figure 2: The diphthongs of Australian English. This diagram summarises the results of the acoustic studies of Bernard (1970) and Cox (1996). This data is for male speakers only. It includes all of Cox's male subjects, but only Bernard's male General Australian speakers. Female speakers show a similar pattern.

The main differences in the diphthong patterns measured by Bernard and Cox are the changes in the trajectories of the diphthongs /æɔ/,/əʉ/ and /ɑe/. The changes in the targets of these two vowels parallel changes in the positions of the monophthongs /æ/,/ɔ/, and /ʉː/. For a discussion, see Cox (1999).


  1. Bernard, J., "Toward the acoustic specification of Australian English", Zeitschrift fur Phonetik, Sprachwissenschaft und Kommunikationsforschung, Band 23, Heft 2/3, 1970.
  2. Bernard, J. and Mannell, R., "A study of /h_d/ words in Australian English", Working Papers of the Speech, Hearing and Language Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1986.
  3. Cox, F., An acoustic study of vowel variation in Australian English, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Macquarie University, 1996.
  4. Cox, F., "Vowel change in Australian English", Phonetica, 56, 1-27, 1999.