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Department of Linguistics


Vowel Symbols for Australian English Phonemes

Robert Mannell and Felicity Cox (2009)

The IPA-based Australian English vowel phoneme symbols used throughout this site are those recommended by Harrington et al. (1997). These symbols develop the proposals of Clark (1989) who strongly argued for the replacement of those used by Mitchell (1946) and Mitchell & Delbridge (1965a, 1965b) and still persisting in the Macquarie Dictionary. The Mitchell symbols, it was argued, much more closely resemble the way that English is pronounced in urban south east England. The Clark system takes a phonetic transcription of the vowels of an average speaker of General Aus.E. utilising Bernard's (Bernard, 1970; Bernard and Mannell, 1986) data and uses that phonetic transcription as the phonemic representation for the vowels of Aus.E. generally. Harrington et al (1997) carried out a subsequent acoustic analysis of Australian English on more recent data, and from a larger number of phonetic contexts, and this prompted them to modify the Clark proposal. Additionally, they substituted the symbol "", with the equivalent, but IPA-approved, symbol "". Table 1 displays Harrington's and Clark's vowel notations next to that of Mitchell, and a set of sample words containing each phoneme. Cox (2008) argues the merits of the HCE (Harrington, Cox and Evans, 1997) system for the phonemic transcription of Australian Engish. Cox (2012) provides a detailed coverage of transcription of Australian English using both the HCE and the Mitchell and Delbridge (MD) systems of transcription.

Also included on the table are the symbols used by the Australian National Database of Spoken Language (ANDOSL). They are a set of so-called "machine readable" phonetic symbols. This system replaces the characters that don't occur on an English keyboard (known as ASCII symbols) with a unique set of ASCII symbols. These symbols display reliably on all English-language web browsers without the need to install new fonts. Note that sometimes the length diacritic ":" may be omitted from ANDOSL representations of the long vowels, but only if this doesn't create any ambiguity (e.g. /i/ rather than /i:/ is not ambiguous).

(Please note that all phonetic symbols in this table are represented by graphic images and so they don't require a phonetic font. Success in displaying these characters should not be interpreted as evidence that your browser is set up correctly for the displaying of the phonetic font.)

Mitchell (1946)
Clark (1988)
Harrington et al (1996)
Example word

Table 1: Mitchell's (1946), Clark's (1988), and Harrington's et al (1996) Australian English vowel notations. Also included are a set of ASCII symbols for Australian English used by the SHLRC speech database annotation package EMU and on the Australian National Database of Spoken English (ANDOSL) (Harrington et al., 1993). The ANDOSL symbols may be encountered on other parts of this web site, in particular on pages dealing with speech acoustics or speech technology.


Bernard, J.R. (1970) "Toward the acoustic specification of Australian English", Zeitschrift fur Phonetik, Sprachwissenschaft und Kommunikationsforschung, Band 23, Heft 2/3

Bernard, J.R. and Mannell, R.H. (1986) "A study /h_d/ words in Australian English", Working Papers of the Speech, Hearing and Language Research Centre, Macquarie University

Clark, J.E. (1989) "Some proposals for a revised phonetic transcription of Australian English" in Collins, P. & Blair, D. (eds) Australian English: The Language of a New Society, Univ. Queensland Press.

Cox, F. (2008) Vowel Transcription systems: An Australian Perspective, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 10, 327-333.

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

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

Mitchell, A.G. (1946) The Pronunciation of English in Australia, Angus and Robertson.

Mitchell, A.G., & Delbridge, A. (revised edition, 1965(a)) The Pronunciation of English in Australia, Angus and Robertson.

Mitchell, A.G., & Delbridge, A. (1965(b)) The Speech of Australian Adolescents, Angus and Robertson.