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Department of Linguistics

PHONETICS AND PHONOLOGY

Phonemic (Broad) Transcription of Australian English

The Mitchell-Delbridge Phonemic Transcription System for Australian English Vowels

Robert Mannell and Felicity Cox

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In 2005, we decided to include a brief overview of the Mitchell-Delbridge system for the phonemic transcription of Australian English vowels. We did this because, even though we believe that the Harrington, Cox and Evans (1997) system better represents the actual average Australian pronunciation of vowels, the Mitchell-Delbridge system is still well entrenched in, for example, the Macquarie Dictionary and most speech pathology clinics in Australia.

For a comparison of several phonemic transcription systems used for the transcription of Australian English vowels, see the topic entitled Vowel Symbols for Australian English Phonemes.

Vowel Phonemes of General Australian English

Only vowel phonemes are listed below, as there is no difference between the two transcription systems for the consonant phonemes of Australian English.

This material should be read in conjunction with the lecture materials on Australian English Vowels.

1. Monophthongs

Long vowels
 
Short vowels
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/i/ heed  
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/ɪ/ hid
       
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/ head
       
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/æ/ had
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/a/ hard  
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/ʌ/ mud
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/ɔ/ hoard, saw  
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/ɒ/ pod
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/u/ who'd  
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/ʊ/ hood
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/ɜ/ heard  
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/ə/ the (spoken quickly)

2. Diphthongs

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/eɪ/ say  
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/oʊ/ so
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/aɪ/ high  
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/aʊ/ how
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/ɔɪ/ toy  
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/ɪə/ here
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/ʊə/ cure  
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/ɛə/ hair
  1. A phonemic transcription of Australian English can be converted between the Mitchell-Delbridge system and the Harrington, Cox and Evans (1997) system by simply substituting the vowel symbols.
  2. All other aspects of the phonemic transcription of Australian English are identical for both systems (as long as you take the trouble to substitute the vowel symbols). All topics in the notes on the phonemic transcription of Australian English apply equally to both transcription systems (as long as you take the trouble to substitute the vowels symbols
  3. Note that the vowel in "hair" is treated as a diphthong (/ɛə or eə/) by Mitchell and Delbridge and as a long monophthong (/eː/) by Harrington, Cox and Evans (1997). This difference can be attributed to a growing trend for Australians to pronounce this vowel phoneme as a monophthong.
  4. Be very careful of the vowel symbol /ɔ/, which represents different vowel phonemes in the two systems. This difference is the cause of most confusion for people learning to use both systems.
  5. Don't ever ask us which of these systems is the IPA. They both use IPA symbols, but they are both local conventions used for phonemic transcriptions of Australian English. The Mitchell-Delbridge system is quite similar (but not identical) for a system used to do phonemic transcriptions of the British Received Pronunciation (RP) dialect, whilst the Harrington et al system more closely represents the actual pronunciation of an average modern speaker of Australian English.

References

Cox, F., (2012) Australian English: Pronunciation and Transcription, Cambridge University Press.

Harrington, J., Cox, F., and Evans, Z. (1997) An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 17, 155-184.