English Around the World: Australian English

It is widely known that Australia is one of the English-speaking countries that use this language also as their official and national language. Like other English-speaking countries, Australians follow the standardized language ideology that governs uniform English usage throughout the world. However, in colloquial use, Australians have a notable language identity called the Australian English dialect. 

In 1788, more than 1400 settlers from Europe arrived on the wide brown land and built the Colony of New South Wales. This was actually a British government plan to establish a new settlement for convicts outside Britain’s territories. They embarked from the port of Portsmouth and sailed for months until they arrived at Botany Bay. This first colony consisted of people from many different cultural backgrounds which made Australia become the new camp for multiculturalism in the southern hemisphere in that period.

As they settled on the southeast coast of Australia, these people came into contact with the continent’s indigenous people. During the early periods of western settlement, encounters with the natives became an unpleasant history of conflict and conquest.

The establishment of the colony and the birth of Australian English

As a British colony, the settlement was governed by English settlers from different parts of Britain who spoke with different English accents and dialects. It was pictured as an enclosed territory with the most complex composition of speaking style. Thus, to make the conversation happen, these people must level their thick accents and dialect identities to each other. 

A few years after the first fleet reached the continent, people communicated using a different standard of English that was easier for each other to understand. This was not a situation where they could speak similarly, but rather one where they understood each other so that each dialect could influence the other. 

Children born and raised in the early colonies were exposed to these language conditions. In peer interactions, they created colloquial combinations from several language elements like accents and vocabularies that they chose from the diversity of dialects there. Thus in the natural discipline of language development, these children eventually created a new style of language that made them the true inventors of early Australian English.

In only 50 years, a native colony accent developed in the region. It was a strong accent that stuck with several generations of people living in the region. Even after years when more immigrants and free settlers from different parts of Europe came to this land, Australian English still remained significantly unchanged.

Australian English Characteristic

In its progress, the Australian accent evolved into several varieties. The interactions between people from different sociocultural backgrounds of the first settlers, immigrants, and indigenous people have created at least three Australian English varieties namely the board, general, and cultivated.

The broad Australian accent is a thick accent that is strongly recognizable and understandable among English speakers. This accent can be easily found in rural areas where it is especially recognizable because of the presence of many long diphthongs and non-rhotic /r/ sound. The broad Australian accent also shows the tendency to merge syllables or ignore consonants. The speaking accent often shows a prevalence of short intonation.

Some time ago, it was highly perceived that the broad Australian accent was the colloquial style on a regular basis, while the cultivated accent was the language for formal situations to show higher intelligence and status. This cultivated accent is very similar to British Received Pronunciation and is often compared in terms of usage.

In the modern day, the majority of Australians tend to speak general Australian English. This accent lies in the middle between the broad and cultivated Australian accents. As many as 90% of Australians speak with a general accent, while the remaining 10% share between a broad, cultivated, and other accents.

Since standard Australian English has been an acceptable dialect, the regional dialects evolve in a continuum following Australia’s growing socio-cultural independence. There are still a few language variations that belong to the Australian subgroup emerging from some minor groups in this continent. 

Australian Aboriginal English, for example, is a sub-variation of Australian English spoken by most indigenous people of Australia. This sub-variation even develops several varieties from different regions. The distinction in this variety ranges from the mutually intelligible version to the one that is highly different from the Australian standard language.

Australian English Vocabulary

In the last 200 years, Australia has been the destination for free immigrants from different parts of the world. Instead of being a new colony reserved for British convicts, it attracted many people from Africa and Asia to come and settle. The multicultural composition has affected the language, especially the emergence of vocabulary and idioms that never existed in British English dictionaries. 
These new words and idioms are certainly the product of socialization among the people who lived together in this land including the Scottish, Ireland, and Aboriginal people. Not only inventing new words, but Australian English also uses existing words in English with different meanings that refer to specific things related to conditions in the region. Some words like battler, bludger, digger, and outback are some instances of vocabulary exclusively used by Australians.

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