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Department of Linguistics


The Vowel Systems of English Dialects

The links at the bottom of this section are to diagrams of acoustic data plotted onto cardinal vowel charts. The data for Australian English is for General Australian English (see the pages on Impressionistic Studies of Australian English for background on the varieties of Australian English).

To work out a reasonably descriptive system of transcription for a dialect, simply use the closest cardinal vowel, or other IPA vowel symbol, to each vowel. For diphthongs, select the symbols nearest to the beginning and end of the arrow that describes the diphthong targets. The General Australian English data, when analysed in this way, should give you the symbols that we use in this course for the broad transcription of Australian English vowels.

Centring Diphthongs and Non-rhotic Dialects of English

In the above diagrams the centring diphthongs of Australian English, British RP English and New Zealand English have been omitted. These diphthongs only occur in non-rhotic dialects of English. These are dialects that don't pronounce the /r/ consonant at the end of a syllable when there is a following pause or consonant. These diphthongs occur as a result of the /r/ phoneme being reduced to a schwa offglide in these contexts. These diphthongs include /ɪə,eə,ʊə/ but their realisation in most dialects is evolving and there is evidence that some centring diphthongs may be disappearing (or in the case of Australian English, changing to monophthongs eg. /eə/ > /eː/). American English, being a rhotic dialect of English, does not have these vowels. Australian English centring diphthongs will be discussed in more detail in the material on Connected Speech and Broad Transcription.