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Department of Linguistics

LING322/LING333: Australian English

Student Research Projects - Abstracts


2009 Projects


Elision in Australian English: An investigation of speech conditions and gender, age and education as factors affecting its frequency

Kylie Roby, Naomi Burns and Katherine Selden

This study aimed to examine the phonetic process of elision in Australian English; a feature that appears not to have been previously researched in this dialect of English. Elision was investigated within three speech conditions as well as across the variables of age, gender and education. A list of 18 target words was compiled and three tasks designed to generate three different speech conditions: a map task devised to elicit conversational speech, reading passages and a list of isolated words. 76 participants completed the three tasks. Analysis of the data was impressionistic and each word was coded according to presence or absence of elision. The results showed that the map task did not adequately elicit the target words or represent conversational speech; however, there was a significant difference in the frequency of elision between the reading passages and the words in isolation. In addition, whilst gender and education did not have a significant effect on frequency of elision, age did with those in the age group 51-70 using elision at a significantly greater frequency. Further study is warranted to examine age as a factor on the frequency of elision in more detail. In addition, it would be of interest to design a task which more accurately reflects conversational speech to compare to the reading passages and words in isolation.


The Acquisition of Australian Colloquialisms by Native Speakers from English and Chinese Speaking Backgrounds.

Mariette Bakhuys, Zhao Meng & Michelle Lee

This paper reports on the acquisition of Australian colloquialisms by native Australian English speakers from English and Chinese speaking backgrounds. It addresses differences in speaker age and background as well as variations in word familiarity and frequency and their effects on colloquialism acquisition. 40 participants, divided into four groups according to age and language background, were presented with 10 Australian colloquialisms ranging from high to low familiarity and asked to supply their understood meaning of each word. Results indicate age as a strong determiner of colloquialism understanding as well as speaker background to a lesser extent. Familiarity was also found to have an effect on speaker’s understanding of colloquialisms. The need for further research is stressed to fully understand the nature of colloquialism acquisition.


A Sociolinguistic Examination of Accent Variation in Australian Pop Music

Belinda Collins, Samantha Bentink & Sajitha Forde

It is a commonly held belief that Australian Pop music, particularly the accents of singers, is greatly influenced by American language and culture. While it is true that some Australian Pop singers adopt American accent characteristics when singing, Australian accents are still common among the top selling performers. This paper details a short examination of the phonological tendencies within Australian Pop Music, in particular the accent variants employed by popular female vocalists. We found that the level of American influence on accent varies greatly among the most popular female singers of 2007. This paper suggests that the accents used for performance are likely to be the result of several sociolinguistic factors such as cultural identity, type of artist (whether singer or singer/songwriter) and genre appropriateness and the target audience. There are a number of factors which influence the level of American accent variants used by Australian female Pop singers. However, there is no obvious correlation between popularity and the use of American accent variants.


The Perception and Attitude of Australians towards Australian English and its Ethnic Varieties

Emily Moreland, Lorena Vanderwiel, Janine John & Sara Steinhardt

In a multicultural country like Australia, many people from different countries come together, using some variety of Australian English in order to communicate. The following study investigates the perception and attitudes Australian speakers can have when encountering people using ethnic varieties of their language. It was found that Australians are able to distinguish between Australian and Ethnic speakers, but are unsure about the origins of Ethnic speakers when only hearing speech examples of the same. However it was found that Australians are willing to attribute a certain degree of “Australianess” to Ethnic speakers that have been living in Australia over a long period of time. Despite the positive view of Ethnic varieties of Australian English, Australians persisted in judging Australians as more similar and friendly, sticking to the pattern of In- and Outgroup perceptions established by Gallois and Callan (1989). When given different Ethnic groups to rate, Australians surprisingly did not rate speakers with a similar language background positively. Consequently speakers with a Germanic language background were rated more negatively in categories of similarity and trustworthiness than Latin or Asian language background speakers. Yet, the results for all of the speakers were still mostly positive, meaning that the majority of the Australians did not reject any Ethnic variety of English.This study can be seen as a current exploration of the topic as similar research is from the last century and therefore served as a starting point for our further research.


2010 Projects


Production of Australian English Phonemes – Insight into Difficulties for Speakers of Ethnic Background

Anita Harris, Kana Nishida, Yuho Suzuki & Gulsah Mavruk

The existence of a general difficulty for non-native speakers to produce phonemes unfamiliar to their native language is well known and controversy currently exists in the results of past studies investigating relationships between visual representation and speech production. The object of the present study is to examine the speech of a small number of migrants and exchange students from Japan and Turkey, to assess difficulties in the production of specific Australian English phonemes. Focus is based on comparisons of the following variables; written and repetition; words and sentences; and also gender differences. Interestingly, findings from both ethnic backgrounds indicate far less difficulty than was originally expected and tendencies for difficulty from the different ethnicities are often contrasting across the variables. Hence the current study presents that many factors contribute to difficulties encountered for non-native speakers, highlighting the complexity of such research.




This study sought to determine the representation of Australian identity in the 1980s and 2000s based upon sociolect choice of five Australian tourism television advertisements. Whether a change in sociolect choice occurred over this period was also examined. An impressionistic analysis of each advertisement was performed, and previous studies into the phonetics of Australian English by researchers such as Mitchell and Delbridge (1965), Bernard (1967), and Cox (1998) was used to categorise each speaker as tending more towards one of the three Standard Australian English sociolects: Broad, General, or Cultivated. Research into the social history of Australia post-1980 was undertaken to theorise possible reasons for the sociolect choices and changes. This research found a more marked use of Broad speech in the early 1980s, but a tendency more towards General speech in the latter half of this decade. Findings from the 2000s suggest a tendency towards General speech, but also some movement towards the representation of Australian Aboriginal English. Acoustic analysis would further describe the extent of these sociolect choices and change.




A listening test was carried out to determine whether individuals could correctly identify speakers of the same ethnic background. The capability of those of a different ethnic background to pick the ethnicity was also analsyed, along with migrants who come from both English and non-English speaking backgrounds. Eight participants who had ethnic backgrounds of Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, Italian and Vietnamese which included a male and female from each; provided speech samples in the form of isolated words, sentences and natural speech. These recordings were the stimulus for the 59 listeners who took part in the main part of the study where they attempted to identify the speakers’ ethnic backgrounds. The results supported all of the hypotheses with the Anglo-Saxon speakers being the most correctly identified by other Anglo-Saxons, by those of a different ethnic background, and by migrants. A study such as this can be used to identify ethnicity to aid cultural accommodation when interacting with those of a different culture. The implications of this study are relevant to the ever-changing multicultural nature of Australian society in the present and looking towards the future.


Accent Change

Daniel Chiu and Nanqing Cui

Our project centered around the question of why some people change their accent after immigrating to the Australia and why some do not, mainly focusing on the particular age group 18-25. In our project, we examined the relationship between different types of context factors and people’s accent movement. We asked questions to find out where people came from, when they started to learn English and how do social factors affect their intention to change their accent. This is a very interesting topic because as Australia is a multi-cultural country with large amount of immigration.You are able to hear heaps of different accents easily on the street. We have interviewed 13 people who came from different cultures rather than Australia and we asked about their background of English development, their duration in Australia, and so on. We have created four main aspects to analysis to find out which context is most responsible for accent accommodation. Among our participants, there are several which are quite attractive and special, and we have chosen three of them to explore in depth. We have also included some theoretical information to support our analysis. 

2011 Projects


Accent Accommodation

Jessica Allen, Jessica Litchfield, Nicola Osborn

International, social and individual identity is often characterised by language. An accent is the distinctive mode of pronunciation which is often associated with a particular nation. This study aims to identify whether Kristina Keneally, a prominent political figure in Australian politics, accommodated her native accent to portray a sense of credibility and social belonging. Rhoticity was measured in a variety of contexts, over time. American dialects are most commonly rhotic, while Australian English is a non-rhotic dialect. This project, therefore compares the potential occurrences of rhoticity over actual occurrences of rhoticity.  The impressionistic analysis revealed no significant change over time, indicating that Keneally may have been too old for significant language change to take place.


Native Perception and Evaluations of Non-Native English Speakers

Yulia James and Ignatius Lim

Today’s Australia is a multilingual nation in a multilingual world, where there are far more plurilinguals than monolinguals. Plurilingualism is no longer seen as a disadvantage, as its positive potential is evident.  However, valuing, supporting and strengthening multilingualism is undermined by the monolingual mindset which confuses and distorts the issues.  One of the ways monolingual mindset reveals itself is through the attitudes towards the accented English speech.
This study explores some issues of perception of accented Singaporean English speech. Thirty subjects of three different age groups were invited to listen to the Singaporean and Australian varieties of English and made their evaluations of the personality of four speakers, two Singaporeans (male and female) and two Australians (male and a female).  Listener response tallies were presented in graphs that showed the following tendencies.  Across all age groups the female Australian speaker was rated more favourably than the male Australian speaker and both Singaporean speakers.
Analysis of variance of the results showed that in relation to the main three identified factors of variation, the variables of gender and ethnicity appear significant.


Non-Native Language versus Non-Native Accent: A comparative study on linguistic issues non-native and American speakers of English face decoding AusE

Elena Danielyan, Sarah Erlenwein, Sven Siewerth

Our study aimed at investigating in which lexical areas and to what extent Americans as L1 speakers of English and L2 speakers of English have problems understanding everyday Australian English. To research this, we designed a questionnaire consisting of five parts: demographic information, traditional colloquialisms, idioms, abbreviations and discourse understanding. The participants had to give definitions of the given expressions. To obtain quantitative results, we asked 40 Australians (control group), 30 Americans and 30 L2 learners to fill in our questionnaire. We found out that Americans and L2 learners perceive and understand colloquial AusE differently. Even though there were inconsistencies between different speakers within each particular group, some general tendencies can be observed. While both groups had major problems with idioms and abbreviations, the results at the level of utterances differed drastically: Americans had a sound understanding of the sample sentences as opposed to L2 learners. Being native speakers, Americans may have had an advantage over L2 learners. Overall, Americans had a better understanding of Australian lexicon. In future studies sociolinguistic parameters such as age, place of origin, occupation as well as place and duration of stay should be taken into account. In addition, it can be examined if there is a difference in the perception of traditional Australian colloquialisms and the modern (mostly American) ones by non-native speakers.


Use of tapped 't' in Australian English: A study of situational context and gender

Katie Brennan, Matilda Butson, Dana Pollard, Marielle Smith

This study investigates the occurrence of tapped /t/ in Australian English and how it is affected by gender and contextual differences. To examine these differences, the speech of 20 male and 20 female subjects was analysed. The subjects used in this study were Macquarie University students and native speakers of Australian English. Informal and formal speech were elicited from subjects through a recall and word list task. The speech was then recorded and analysed for the occurrence of tapped /t/. The results in this study show that tapped /t/ occurs more frequently in the informal context than in the formal. Tapped /t/ also occurred more frequently in the speech of male subjects than for female subjects. These results were consistent with the findings from past literature.