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Australian English

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australian English
Native speakers
16.5 million in Australia (2012)[1]
3.5 million L2 speakers of English in Australia (Crystal 2003)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Australian English (AuE, en-AU)[3] is the set of varieties of the English language native to Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is the country's national and de facto official language as it is the first language of the majority of the population.

Australian English began to diverge from British English after the First Settlers, who set up the Colony of New South Wales, arrived in 1788. By 1820, their speech was recognised as being different from British English. Australian English arose from the intermingling of early settlers, who were from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of the British Isles, and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English[4] which differs considerably from other varieties of English in vocabulary, accent, pronunciation, register, grammar and spelling.

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Hello! I'm Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson, I found an American all the way down here in Australia and I thought that I'd use him to show you some of the pronunciation differences between Australian English and American English. You don't mind if I use you, Allan? Use away! How long have you been in Australia Allan? Two weeks now. Two weeks! And what do you think of it so far? It's beautiful. Yeah. Actually this is our first rainy day but for most days it's been really, really nice out here in the west side. Rainy days are good for filming actually! Oh! That's good, perfect day. Hey, what's one weird thing that Australians say? Australians say a lot of weird things with slang words. What kinds of things have you heard that have kind of just weirded you out? Maybe if someone said, you know, "Go to the boot and get some bush chooks and we'll crack a tinnie." And you're like, "I have no idea what you're talking about!" Nobody knows what you're talking about! What he actually said was can you go to the car, the back of the car, open it, get out a can of beer and open the beer. Drink it. And drink the beer. So we can drink beer. Boot is actually not that weird, that's just you know, you have a different name in America, right? We just call it a trunk. A trunk. The back of the car in America is called a trunk but here in Australia and in the UK too it's boot. Yes. You also say some really weird things actually, this morning you said to me "I'm going to go and pet that horse out there." and I was like "what?" because pet is just like an animal in Australia, like a dog or a cat. Right, right. But you're using it as a verb like you would - like we say pat, pat the animal and you say pet. Yeah, yeah pet. Yeah. Pet the animal. But my point is that even native English speakers have, you know, sometimes we have words or even pronunciation that we don't quite understand about each other and you have to sort of piece the puzzle together and that's definitely what we've been doing the last few days, right? Since I met you. Definitely. Piecing it together. Yeah right, piecing it together. Figuring it out. I'm going to, I've got some words actually written down here that I want to, I want to test your pronunciation on because I think that the way that you say these words is quite different to the way that we say them here in Australia. So I want to test that out and I want to demonstrate to you guys what that actually, what it looks like or what it sounds like. The different - the difference between the American accent and the Australian accent. So the first one is this one, Allan. How do you say this? That's hot. Hot. Hot. OK, so we would say hot. So more like oh rather than ah. Yeah so it's a little bit different - that's an easy one to start with. What about this one? Going to be very different. We say car. This one, Car. Car. Car. So the main difference there is that Allan pronounces the 'r' at the end of this word. You say car. We use the 'r', yes. And we just dropped that 'r' sound, it's kind of silent. It's just ah. Car. Yeah! That's like, that's proper Australian accent. Car. All right, what about this one? Bottle. Bottle. Bottle. Now the way that I say bottle is - with T's. Yeah but it's not, actually, lots of Australians have the same pronunciation of these two T's like, like you do and often I say bottle as well. So you instead of pronouncing that T, it's like a 'd' sound, like a lazy D sound. Bottle. Bottle. Yeah. Bottle. Bottle. Yeah that's pretty good, it's pretty close. But that's one similarity between the Australian accent and the American accent - is this double T or even just a single T in the middle of words like a bottle of water. A bottle of water. Yeah, like someone from the UK would say a bottle of water - in a better accent than me. OK, how about this one? Burger. I think the way he says this is hilarious! We say burger but you pronounce this 'u' in a different way. Burger. Yes. Bur- Burger. Burger. And I just say burger. OK! Sometimes we'd drop the 'a' there, we'll say garage. Garage? Oh, like that's really, really soft. Yeah, sometimes it's garage or sometimes it's just garage. So the main difference between the American and the Australian or the UK British accent pronunciation of this word is that we would put the stress on the first syllable and we would say ga-rage, garage. And you would say garage so the stress pattern is different for this word. Garage. Garage. OK. Bought. That is not how you say that! Bought. Yes. Bought. It's pretty similar! Bought. Bought. Yeah it's pretty similar. Bought. What about this one, then? Daughter. Daughter. Daughter. Daughter or daughter. That's another good example of that 't'. Daughter. How about this one? Aunt. Or aunt. But it's mostly, I think you hear people say aunt more. Aunt. We say aunt. Aunt. My auntie. Do you say auntie? No, we just say aunt. We don't really use auntie as much. OK so that's quite different! Aunt and aunt. How about this one? Entreprenuer. OK so the main difference there is in this last couple of syllables. We say entrepreneur. Oh really? Entrepreneur. Yeah. Now I don't even know how to say it! Entrepreneur. So you kind of do two syllables at the end here, where we just go entrepreneur or entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. That's a weird word. Entrepreneur. What about.. this is kind of related, this word. Yeah. There's niche or niche. What do you say? I say niche but maybe I've been saying it wrong for a while but I think people say niche though. It's your niche. Everyone, lots of people in America say niche but everyone outside of America says niche. Is that true? Did you have to look that up? No that's true! I want to make sure I'm not the only one here. It's not just you! Lots of Americans say niche and add a 't' sound in there but the rest of the world, the rest of the English-speaking world, says niche. Find your niche. Interesting, very interesting. OK. Caramel. Sorry what? Caramel. We'll say caramel, caramel apple! Caramel, caramel apple! Yeah. Caramel. Yes it's very different. Caramel. And I don't know why it's caramel, but it's caramel or people will say it both ways. It's caramel or caramel. Yeah and even then, - caramel - if you say caramel, you put like a stronger stress on this third syllable, don't you? Caramel. Yeah -mel. Caramel. OK this one. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Very different. It's quite different. But this is like - - you say it correctly. You would normally, you would normally say just cell phone, right? Yeah, we say cell phone. When do you use this word? Like a mobile home, like to move things. Yeah, not like a phone? Right. Right because we would use this for a phone. Even, well actually, I jumped in the ocean with my mobile. You did too! and I went to look for cell phones and it's like in Australia it's not really, they just always use mobile phones so I was searching for what's the best cell phone plan and it's not how they say it. Oh like you were Google-ing that? Yeah yeah. But if you said that to someone here though, they'd know exactly what you were talking about. Cell phone, mobile phone. Right, right. But if you did say mobile or what do you say? Mobile? Mobile. Mobile. They'd be like 'what?'. Actually that's like the petrol company. Yeah we don't use petrol either, we call it gas. It's just gas or gasoline. So these are like loads of vocabulary differences between American and Australian English. We're trying to focus on pronunciation but there's a whole 'nother lesson in vocabulary for sure! OK what about this one? This one is one of my favorites! It's very simply said. Aluminium. Aluminium is what we say but actually when I when I looked this up, you guys spell it differently - That's why! Because I'm looking at it, I'm like I don't think that's how we spell it, right. You actually have changed the spelling so instead of aluminium, aluminium. You, you just write it aluminum. Is that right? Aluminum. Yeah. Yeah. Aluminum. Just the -um at the end. Stop knocking that plant! Hey buddy! OK how about this? Leisure. Leisure. Leisure. Leisure. But I can see why leisure, that would make probably makes more sense but American pronunciation, leisure, with the 'r' and Australian pronunciation, leisure, bit lazier. Turmeric. Turmeric. Yeah turmeric. Here, turmeric. Yeah, yeah. This is like - maybe I'm wrong but I think I've called it turmeric for all that I can remember. Don't doubt yourself that's just totally how you - Try not to doubt myself. Don't doubt yourself in everything you've known for thirty years! Yeah yeah. But this is the spice, the yellow spice that's used a lot in Indian cooking and Malaysian cooking. Very, very tasty, delicious spice. So are you kind of surprised by how many differences there are or did you already know about a lot of those differences between American and Australian English? I think I get surprised by something almost every day! That you're here! Yeah it's still very new for you, isn't it? Yeah, It's just pronunciation, it is very different. Yes. Yeah, yeah. But it's fun! Yeah? Do you find the Australian accent easy to understand or is it sometimes quite difficult? I think for the most part you can understand it. There's just, there's that I think the more harder things in Australia is like using different words for different meanings. Different vocabulary, slang words and stuff like that. Yes definitely. Alright well if you would like to watch any more videos about the difference between American English, Australian English, British English, I want you to go and check out these two here that I've just right on top of Allan right now. Sorry about that Allan but can you just hold these videos for me? Right here. Yeah. Thank you that's perfect! If you would like to watch more of these videos and get updates when I release new videos, make sure that you subscribe to my channel by clicking this red button here and I will see you in the next lesson. Thanks for joining us and thanks Allan! Well you're very welcome! Thank you for having me. Bye for now!



The earliest form of Australian English was spoken by the children of the colonists in early New South Wales. This first generation of native-born children created a new dialect that was to become the language of the nation. The Australian-born children in the new colony were exposed to a wide range of dialects from all over the British Isles, in particular from Ireland and South East England.[5]

The native-born children in the colony created the new dialect from the speech they heard around them, and with it expressed peer solidarity. Even when new settlers arrived, this new dialect was strong enough to blunt other patterns of speech.

A quarter of the convicts were Irish. Many had been arrested in Ireland, and some in Great Britain. Many, if not most, of the Irish spoke Irish and either no English at all, or spoke it poorly and rarely. There were other significant populations of convicts from non-English speaking parts of Britain, such as the Scottish Highlands, Wales and parts of Cornwall.

Records from the early 19th century show this distinct dialect in the colonies after the first settlement in 1788.[4] Peter Miller Cunningham's 1827 book Two Years in New South Wales, described the distinctive accent and vocabulary of the native-born colonists, that differed from that of their parents and with a strong London influence.[5] Anthony Burgess writes that "Australian English may be thought of as a kind of fossilised Cockney of the Dickensian era."[6]

The Australian gold rushes saw many external influences on the language.
The Australian gold rushes saw many external influences on the language.

The first of the Australian gold rushes, in the 1850s, began a large wave of immigration, during which about two per cent of the population of the United Kingdom emigrated to the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.[7] According to linguist Bruce Moore, "the major input of the various sounds that went into constructing the Australian accent was from south-east England".[5]

Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been adopted by Australian English—mainly as names for places, flora and fauna (for example dingo) and local culture. Many such are localised, and do not form part of general Australian use, while others, such as kangaroo, boomerang, budgerigar, wallaby and so on have become international. Other examples are cooee and hard yakka. The former is used as a high-pitched call, for attracting attention, (pronounced /kʉːiː/)[stress?] which travels long distances. Cooee is also a notional distance: if he's within cooee, we'll spot him. Hard yakka means hard work and is derived from yakka, from the Jagera/Yagara language once spoken in the Brisbane region.

Also of Aboriginal origin is the word bung, from the Sydney pidgin English (and ultimately from the Sydney Aboriginal language), meaning "dead", with some extension to "broken" or "useless". Many towns or suburbs of Australia have also been influenced or named after Aboriginal words. The best-known example is the capital, Canberra, named after a local language word meaning "meeting place".[8]

Among the changes starting in the 19th century were the introduction of words, spellings, terms and usages from North American English. The words imported included some later considered to be typically Australian, such as bushwhacker and squatter.[9]

This American influence continued with the popularity of American films and the influx of American military personnel in World War II; seen in the enduring persistence of such terms as okay, you guys and gee.[10]

Phonology and pronunciation

The primary way in which Australian English is distinctive from other varieties of English is through its unique pronunciation. It shares most similarity with other Southern Hemisphere accents, in particular New Zealand English.[11] Like most dialects of English it is distinguished primarily by its vowel phonology.[12]


Australian English monophthongs[13]
Australian English monophthongs[13]
Part 1 of Australian English diphthongs[13]
Part 1 of Australian English diphthongs[13]
Part 2 of Australian English diphthongs[13]
Part 2 of Australian English diphthongs[13]

The vowels of Australian English can be divided according to length. The long vowels, which include monophthongs and diphthongs, mostly correspond to the tense vowels used in analyses of Received Pronunciation (RP) as well as its centring diphthongs. The short vowels, consisting only of monophthongs, correspond to the RP lax vowels. There exist pairs of long and short vowels with overlapping vowel quality giving Australian English phonemic length distinction, which is unusual amongst the various dialects of English, though not unknown elsewhere, such as in regional south-eastern dialects of the UK and eastern seaboard dialects in the US.[14] As with New Zealand English, the weak-vowel merger is complete in Australian English: unstressed /ɪ/ is merged into /ə/ (schwa), unless it is followed by a velar consonant.

monophthongs diphthongs
short vowels long vowels
IPA examples IPA examples IPA examples
ʊ foot, hood, chook ʉː goose, boo, who’d ɪə near, beard, hear[nb 1]
ɪ kit, bid, hid, fleece, bead, heat æɔ mouth, bowed, how’d
e dress, led, head square, bared, haired əʉ goat, bode, hoed
ə comma, about, winter ɜː nurse, bird, heard æɪ face, bait, hade
æ trap, lad, had ɐː start, palm, bath[nb 2] ɑe price, bite, hide
ɐ strut, bud, hud thought, north, force choice, boy, oil
ɔ lot, cloth, hot
  1. ^ The boundary between monophthongs and diphthongs is somewhat fluid, /ɪə/, for example, is commonly realised as [ɪː], particularly in closed syllables, though also found in open syllables such as we're, here, and so on. In open syllables particularly the pronunciation varies from the bisyllabic [ɪːa] though the diphthong [ɪə] to the long vowel [ɪː].
  2. ^ Many words historically containing /æ/ have /ɐː/ instead, however the extent to which this development has taken hold varies regionally.


There is little variation in the sets of consonants used in different English dialects but there are variations in how these consonants are used. Australian English is no exception.

Consonant phonemes of Australian English[15]
  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal   m       n       ŋ    
Plosive p b     t d k ɡ    
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ     h  
Approximant           ɹ   j   w    
Lateral           l            

Australian English is non-rhotic; that is, the /r/ sound does not appear at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant. However, a linking /r/ can occur when a word that has a final <r> in the spelling comes before another word that starts with a vowel. An intrusive /r/ may similarly be inserted before a vowel in words that do not have <r> in the spelling in certain environments, namely after the long vowel /oː/ and after word final /ə/. This can be heard in "law-r-and order," where an intrusive R is voiced after the W and before the A.

There is some degree of allophonic variation in the alveolar stops. As with North American English, Intervocalic alveolar flapping is a feature of Australian English: prevocalic /t/ and /d/ surface as the alveolar tap [ɾ] after sonorants other than /m, ŋ/ as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel in the same breath group. For many speakers, /t/ and /d/ in the combinations /tr/ and /dr/-are also palatalised, thus /tʃr/ and /dʒr/, as Australian /r/ is only very slightly retroflex, the tip remaining below the level of the bottom teeth[citation needed] in the same position as for /w/; it is also somewhat rounded ("to say 'r' the way Australians do you need to say 'w' at the same time"), where older English /wr/ and /r/ have fallen together as [rʷ]. The wine–whine merger is complete in Australian English.

Yod-dropping occurs after /s/, /z/ and, /θ/. Other cases of /sj/ and /zj/, along with /tj/ and /dj/, have coalesced to /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ respectively for many speakers. /j/ is generally retained in other consonant clusters.

In common with most varieties of Scottish English and American English, the phoneme /l/ is pronounced as a "dark" (velarised) L ([ɫ]) in all positions, unlike other dialects such as Received Pronunciation and Hiberno (Irish) English, where a light L (i.e., a non-velarised L) is used in many positions.


Differences in stress, weak forms and standard pronunciation of isolated words occur between Australian English and other forms of English, which while noticeable do not impair intelligibility.

The affixes -ary, -ery, -ory, -bury, -berry and -mony (seen in words such as necessary, mulberry and matrimony) can be pronounced either with a full vowel or a schwa. Although some words like necessary are almost universally pronounced with the full vowel, older generations of Australians are relatively likely to pronounce these affixes with a schwa while younger generations are relatively likely to use a full vowel.

Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending in -ilis are pronounced with a full vowel (/ɑel/), so that fertile rhymes with fur tile rather than turtle.

In addition, miscellaneous pronunciation differences exist when compared with other varieties of English in relation to seemingly random words. For example, as with American English, the vowel in yoghurt is pronounced as /əʉ/ ("long 'O'") rather than /ɔ/ ("short o"); vitamin, migraine and privacy are pronounced with /ɑe/ (as in mine) rather than /ɪ/, /iː/ and /ɪ/ respectively; paedophile is pronounced with /e/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; and urinal is pronounced with schwa /ə/ rather than /ɑe/ ("long i"). As with British English, advertisement is pronounced with /ɪ/; tomato and vase are pronounced with /ɐː/ (as in father) instead of /æɪ/; zebra is pronounced with /e/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; and buoy is pronounced as /boɪ/ (as in boy) rather than /ˈbʉːiː/. Two examples of miscellaneous pronunciations which contrast with both standard American and British usages are data, which may be pronounced with /ɐː/ ("dah") instead of /æɪ/ ("day"); and maroon, pronounced with /əʉ/ ("own") as opposed to /ʉː/ ("oon").


Variation in Australian closing diphthongs[16]
Diaphoneme Lexical set Cultivated General Broad
// FLEECE [ɪi] [ɪi] [əːɪ]
// GOOSE [ʊu] [ïɯ, ʊʉ] [əːʉ]
// FACE [ɛɪ] [ɐ̟ɪ] [ɐ̟ːɪ, a̠ːɪ]
// GOAT [o̽ʊ] [ɐ̟ʉ] [ɐ̟ːʉ, a̠ːʉ]
// PRICE [a̠ɪ̞] [ɒɪ̞] [ɒːɪ̞]
// MOUTH [a̠ʊ] [æo] [ɛːo, ɛ̃ːɤ]

Academic research has shown that the most notable variation within Australian English is largely sociocultural. This is mostly evident in phonology, which is divided into three sociocultural varieties: broad, general and cultivated.[17]

A limited range of word choices is strongly regional in nature. Consequently, the geographical background of individuals can be inferred, if they use words that are peculiar to particular Australian states or territories and, in some cases, even smaller regions.

In addition, some Australians speak creole languages derived from Australian English, such as Australian Kriol, Torres Strait Creole and Norfuk.


The broad, general and cultivated accents form a continuum that reflects minute variations in the Australian accent. They can reflect the social class, education and urban or rural background of speakers, though such indicators are not always reliable.[18] According to linguists, the general Australian variant emerged some time before 1900.[19] Recent generations have seen a comparatively smaller proportion of the population speaking with the broad variant, along with the near extinction of the cultivated Australian accent.[20][21] The growth and dominance of general Australian accents perhaps reflects its prominence on radio and television during the late 20th century.

Australian Aboriginal English is made up of a range of forms which developed differently in different parts of Australia, and are said to vary along a continuum, from forms close to Standard Australian English to more non-standard forms. There are distinctive features of accent, grammar, words and meanings, as well as language use.

The ethnocultural dialects are diverse accents in Australian English that are spoken by the minority groups, which are of non-English speaking background.[22] A massive immigration from Asia has made a large increase in diversity and the will for people to show their cultural identity within the Australian context.[23] These ethnocultural varieties contain features of General Australian English as adopted by the children of immigrants blended with some non-English language features, such as the Afro-Asiatic and Asian languages.

Regional variation

Although Australian English is relatively homogeneous, there are some regional variations. The dialects of English spoken in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands differ slightly in vocabulary and phonology.

Most regional differences are in word usage. Swimming clothes are known as cossies or swimmers in New South Wales, togs in Queensland, and bathers in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[24] What most of Australia calls a stroller is usually called a pram in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.[25] Preference for some synonymous words also differ between states. Garbage (i.e., garbage bin, garbage truck) dominates over rubbish in New South Wales and Queensland, while rubbish is more popular in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[25] The word footy generally refers to the most popular football code in an area; that is, rugby league or rugby union depending on the local area, in most of New South Wales and Queensland, and Australian rules football elsewhere. Beer glasses are also named differently in different states. Distinctive grammatical patterns exist such as the use of the interrogative eh (also spelled ay or aye), which is particularly associated with Queensland.

There are some notable regional variations in the pronunciations of certain words. The trap‑bath split is more complete in South Australia, which had a different settlement chronology and type from other parts of the country. This resulted in a British English influence that lasted longer that of the other colonies. Words such as dance, advance, plant, graph, example and answer are pronounced with /aː/ (as in father) far more frequently in South Australia while elsewhere in Australia the older /æ/ (as in mad) is more common.[25] L-vocalisation is also more common in South Australia than other states. In Western Australian and Queensland English, the vowels in near and square are typically realised as centring diphthongs ("nee-ya"), whereas in the other states they may also be realised as monophthongs.[26] A feature common in Victorian English is salary–celery merger, whereby a Victorian pronunciation of Ellen may sound like Alan to speakers from other states. There is also regional variation in /uː/ before /l/ (as in school and pool).


Intrinsic traits

Bush poets such as Banjo Paterson captured the Australian vocabulary of the 19th century in their bush ballads.
Bush poets such as Banjo Paterson captured the Australian vocabulary of the 19th century in their bush ballads.

Australian English has many words and idioms which are unique to the dialect and have been written on extensively, with the Macquarie Dictionary, widely regarded as the national standard, incorporating numerous Australian terms.[27]

Internationally well-known examples of Australian terminology include outback, meaning a remote, sparsely populated area, the bush, meaning either a native forest or a country area in general, and g'day, a greeting. Dinkum, or fair dinkum means "true" or "is that true?", among other things, depending on context and inflection.[28] The derivative dinky-di means "true" or devoted: a "dinky-di Aussie" is a "true Australian".

Australian poetry, such as "The Man from Snowy River", as well as folk songs such as "Waltzing Matilda", contain many historical Australian words and phrases that are understood by Australians even though some are not in common usage today.

Australian English, in common with several British English dialects (for example, Cockney, Scouse, Glaswegian and Geordie), uses the word mate. Many words used by Australians were at one time used in the United Kingdom but have since fallen out of usage or changed in meaning there.

For example, creek in Australia, as in North America, means a stream or small river, whereas in the UK it means a small watercourse flowing into the sea; paddock in Australia means field, whereas in the UK it means a small enclosure for livestock; bush or scrub in Australia, as in North America, means a wooded area, whereas in England they are commonly used only in proper names (such as Shepherd's Bush and Wormwood Scrubs).

Litotes, such as "not bad", "not much" and "you're not wrong", are also used, as are diminutives, which are commonly used and are often used to indicate familiarity. Some common examples are arvo (afternoon), barbie (barbecue), smoko (cigarette break), Aussie (Australian) and pressie (present/gift). This may also be done with people's names to create nicknames (other English speaking countries create similar diminutives). For example, "Gazza" from Gary, or "Smitty" from John Smith. The use of the suffix -o originates in Irish Gaelic[citation needed] (Irish ó), which is both a postclitic and a suffix with much the same meaning as in Australian English.

In informal speech, incomplete comparisons are sometimes used, such as "sweet as" (as in "That car is sweet as."). "Full", "fully" or "heaps" may precede a word to act as an intensifier (as in "The waves at the beach were heaps good."). This was more common in regional Australia and South Australia[when?] but has been in common usage in urban Australia for decades. The suffix "-ly" is sometimes omitted in broader Australian English. For instance, "really good" can become "real good".

Australia's switch to the metric system in the 1970s changed most of the country's vocabulary of measurement from imperial to metric measures.[29] Since the switch to metric, heights of individuals are listed in centimetres on official documents such as a driver's licence but older people understand and may speak of feet and inches.[30]

Comparison with other varieties

Where British and American vocabulary differs, Australians sometimes favour a usage different from both varieties, as with footpath (for US sidewalk, UK pavement), capsicum (for US bell pepper, UK green/red pepper), or doona (for US comforter, UK duvet) from a trademarked brand. In other instances, it either shares a term with American English, as with truck (UK: lorry) or eggplant (UK: aubergine), or with British English, as with mobile phone (US: cell phone) or bonnet (US: hood).

A non-exhaustive selection of common British English terms not commonly used in Australian English include (Australian usage in brackets): artic/articulated lorry (semi-trailer); aubergine (eggplant); bank holiday (public holiday); bedsit (one-bedroom apartment); bin lorry (garbage truck); cagoule (raincoat); candy floss (fairy floss); cash machine (automatic teller machine/ATM); child-minder (babysitter); chivvy (nag); clingfilm (glad wrap/cling wrap); cooker (stove); courgette (zucchini); skive (wag); dungarees (overalls); dustbin (garbage/rubbish bin); dustcart (garbage/rubbish truck); duvet (doona); elastoplast/plaster (band-aid); estate car (station wagon); fairy cake (cupcake/patty cake); free phone (toll-free); football (soccer); full fat milk (full-cream milk); goose bumps (goose pimples); high street (main street); hoover (v - to vacuum); horsebox (horse float); ice lolly (ice block/icy pole); kitchen roll (paper towel); lorry (truck); marrow (squash); nettled (irritated); off-licence (bottle shop); pavement (footpath); potato crisps (potato chips); red/green pepper (capsicum); pilchard (sardine); pillar box (post box); plimsoll (sandshoe); pushchair (pram/stroller); saloon car (sedan); snog (v - kiss); swan (v - to go somewhere in an ostentatious way); sweets (lollies); tangerine (mandarin); utility room (laundry); Wellington boots (gumboots).

A non-exhaustive list of American English terms not commonly found in Australian English include: acclimate (acclimatise); aluminum (aluminium); bangs (fringe); bell pepper (capsicum); bellhop (hotel porter); broil (grill); burglarize (burgle); busboy (included under the broader term of waiter); candy (lollies); cell phone (mobile phone); cilantro (coriander); comforter (doona); counter-clockwise (anticlockwise); diaper (nappy); downtown (CBD); drywall (plasterboard); emergency brake (handbrake); faucet (tap); flashlight (torch); frosting (icing); gasoline (petrol); golden raisin (sultana); hood (bonnet); jell-o (jelly); jelly (jam); math (maths); nightstand (bedside table); pacifier (dummy); period (full stop); parking lot (car park); popsicle (ice block/icy pole); railway ties (sleepers); rear view mirror (rear vision mirror); row house (terrace house); scallion (spring onion); silverware/flatware (cutlery); stickshift (manual transmission); streetcar (tram); takeout (takeaway); trash can (garbage/rubbish bin); trunk (boot); turn signal (indicator/blinker); vacation (holiday); upscale/downscale (upmarket/downmarket); windshield (windscreen).

Terms shared by British and American English but not so commonly found in Australian English include: abroad (overseas); cooler/ice box (Esky); flip-flops (thongs); pickup truck (ute); wildfire (bushfire).

Australian English is particularly divergent from other varieties with respect to geographical terminology, due to the country's unique geography. This is particularly true when comparing with British English, due to that country's dramatically different geography. British geographical terms not in common use in Australia include: coppice (cleared bushland); dell (valley); fen (swamp); heath (shrubland); meadow (grassy plain); moor (swampland); spinney (shrubland); stream (creek); woods (bush) and village (even the smallest settlements in Australia are called towns or stations).

In addition, a number of words in Australian English have different meanings from those ascribed in other varieties of English. Clothing-related examples are notable. Pants in Australian English follows American usage in refer to British English trousers but in British English refer to Australian English underpants; vest in Australian English pass also in American refers to British English waistcoat but in British English refers to Australian English singlet; thong in both American and British English refers to underwear (otherwise known as a G-string), while in Australian English it refers to British and American English flip-flop (footwear). There are numerous other examples, including biscuit which refers in Australian and British English to what in American English is cookie or cracker but to a savoury cake in American English; Asian, which in Australian and American English commonly refers to people of East Asian heritage, as opposed to British English, in which it commonly refers to people of South Asian descent; and (potato) chips which refers both to British English crisps (which is not commonly used in Australian English) and to American English French fries (which is used alongside hot chips).

In addition to the large number of uniquely Australian idioms in common use, there are instances of idioms taking differing forms in the various Anglophone nations, for example home away from home, take with a grain of salt and wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole (which in British English take the respective forms home from home, take with a pinch of salt and wouldn't touch with a barge pole), or a drop in the ocean and touch wood (which in American English take the forms a drop in the bucket and knock on wood).


As with American English, but unlike British English, collective nouns are almost always singular in construction, e.g., the government was unable to decide as opposed to the government were unable to decide. Shan't, the use of should as in I should be happy if ..., the use of haven't any instead of haven't got any and the use of don't let's in place of let's not, common in upper-register British English, are almost never encountered in Australian (or North American) English. River generally follows the name of the river in question as in North America, i.e., Darling River, rather than the British convention of coming before the name, e.g., River Thames. In South Australia however, the British convention applies—for example, the River Murray or the River Torrens. As with American English, on the weekend and studied medicine are used rather than the British at the weekend and read medicine. Similarly, around is more commonly used in constructions such as running around, stomping around or messing around in contrast with the British convention of using about.

In common with British English, the past tense and past participles of the verbs learn, spell and smell are often irregular (learnt, spelt, smelt). Similarly, in Australian usage, the to in I'll write to you is retained, as opposed to US usage where it may be dropped. While prepositions before days may be omitted in American English, i.e., She resigned Thursday, they are retained in Australian English, as in British English: She resigned on Thursday. Ranges of dates use to, i.e., Monday to Friday, as with British English, rather than Monday through Friday in American English. When saying or writing out numbers, and is inserted before the tens and units, i.e., one hundred and sixty-two, as with British practice. However Australians, like Americans, are more likely to pronounce numbers such as 1,200 as twelve hundred, rather than one thousand two hundred.

Spelling and style

As in most English-speaking countries, there is no official governmental regulator or overseer of correct spelling and grammar. The Macquarie Dictionary is used by some universities and some other organisations as a standard for Australian English spelling. The Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers, the Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage and the Australian Guide to Legal Citation are prominent style guides.

Australian spelling is closer to British than American spelling. As with British spelling, the u is retained in words such as colour, honour, labour and favour. While the Macquarie Dictionary lists the -our ending and follows it with the -or ending as an acceptable variant, the latter is rarely found in actual use today. Australian print media, including digital media, today strongly favour -our endings. A notable exception to this rule is the Australian Labor Party, which adopted the American spelling in 1912 as a result of -or spellings' comparative popularity at that time. Consistent with British spellings, -re, rather than -er, is the only listed variant in Australian dictionaries in words such as theatre, centre and manoeuvre. Unlike British English, which is split between -ise and -ize in words such as organise and realise, with -ize favoured by the Oxford English Dictionary and -ise listed as a variant, -ize is rare in Australian English and designated as a variant by the Macquarie Dictionary. Ae and oe are often maintained in words such as manoeuvre, paedophilia and foetus (excepting those listed below); however, the Macquarie dictionary lists forms with e (e.g., pedophilia, fetus) as acceptable variants and notes a tendency within Australian English towards using only e. Individual words where the preferred spelling is listed by the Macquarie Dictionary as being different from the British spellings include "program" (in all contexts) as opposed to "programme", "inquire" and derivatives "inquired", "inquiry", etc. as opposed to "enquire" and derivatives, "analog" (as opposed to digital) as opposed to "analogue", "livable" as opposed to "liveable", "guerilla" as opposed to "guerrilla", "yoghurt" as opposed to "yogurt", "verandah" as opposed to "veranda", "burqa" as opposed to "burka", "pastie" (food) as opposed to "pasty".[31][32][33] Unspaced prepositions such as "onto", "anytime", "alright" and "anymore" are also listed as being equally as acceptable as their spaced counterparts.[31][32][33]

Different spellings have existed throughout Australia's history. A pamphlet entitled The So-Called "American Spelling", published in Sydney some time in the 19th century, argued that "there is no valid etymological reason for the preservation of the u in such words as honor, labor, etc."[34] The pamphlet also claimed that "the tendency of people in Australasia is to excise the u, and one of the Sydney morning papers habitually does this, while the other generally follows the older form." What are today regarded as American spellings were popular in Australia throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the Victorian Department of Education endorsing them into the 1970s and The Age newspaper until the 1990s. This influence can be seen in the spelling of the Australian Labor Party and also in some place names such as Victor Harbor. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has been attributed with re-establishing the dominance of the British spellings in the 1920s and 1930s.[35] For a short time during the late 20th century, Harry Lindgren's 1969 spelling reform proposal (Spelling Reform 1 or SR1) gained some support in Australia: in 1975, the Australian Teachers' Federation adopted SR1 as a policy.[36] SR1 calls for the short /e/ sound (as in bet) to be spelt with E (for example friend→frend, head→hed).

Both single and double quotation marks are in use (with double quotation marks being far more common in print media), with logical (as opposed to typesetter's) punctuation. Spaced and unspaced em-dashes remain in mainstream use, as with American and Canadian English. The DD/MM/YYYY date format is followed and the 12-hour clock is generally used in everyday life (as opposed to service, police, and airline applications).

Computer keyboards

There are two major English language keyboard layouts, the United States layout and the United Kingdom layout. Australia universally uses the United States keyboard layout, which lacks pound sterling, Euro currency and negation symbols. Punctuation symbols are also placed differently from British keyboards.

See also


  1. ^ English (Australia) at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ "Unified English Braille". Australian Braille Authority. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  3. ^ en-AU is the language code for Australian English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
  4. ^ a b "history & accent change | Australian Voices". Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Moore, Bruce (2008). Speaking our Language: the Story of Australian English. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-19-556577-0.
  6. ^ Burgess, Anthony (1992). A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, especially English. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0091774152.
  7. ^ Blainey, Geoffrey (1993). The Rush that Never Ended: a History of Australian Mining (4 ed.). Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84557-6.
  8. ^ "Canberra Facts and figures". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  9. ^ Baker, Sidney J. (1945). The Australian Language (1st ed.). Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  10. ^ Bell, Philip; Bell, Roger (1998). Americanization and Australia (1. publ. ed.). Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-784-4.
  11. ^ Trudgill, Peter and Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9, p. 4.
  12. ^ Harrington, J.; F. Cox & Z. Evans (1997). "An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 17 (2): 155–84. doi:10.1080/07268609708599550.
  13. ^ a b c Cox, Felicity; Fletcher, Janet (2017) [First published 2012], Australian English Pronunciation and Transcription (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-316-63926-9
  14. ^ Robert Mannell (14 August 2009). "Australian English - Impressionistic Phonetic Studies". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  15. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007:343)
  16. ^ Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 597
  17. ^ Robert Mannell (14 August 2009). "Robert Mannell, "Impressionistic Studies of Australian English Phonetics"". Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  18. ^ Australia's unique and evolving sound Edition 34, 2007 (23 August 2007) – The Macquarie Globe
  19. ^ Bruce Moore (Australian Oxford Dictionary) and Felicity Cox (Macquarie University) [interviewed in]: Sounds of Aus (television documentary) 2007; director: David Swann; Writer: Lawrie Zion, Princess Pictures (broadcaster: ABC Television).
  20. ^ Das, Sushi (29 January 2005). "Struth! Someone's nicked me Strine". The Age.
  21. ^ Corderoy, Amy (26 January 2010). "It's all English, but vowels ain't voils". Sydney Morning Herald.
  22. ^ "australian english | Australian Voices". 30 July 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  23. ^ "australian english defined | Australian Voices". 25 October 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  24. ^ Kellie Scott (5 January 2016). "Divide over potato cake and scallop, bathers and togs mapped in 2015 Linguistics Roadshow". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  25. ^ a b c Pauline Bryant (1985): Regional variation in the Australian English lexicon, Australian Journal of Linguistics, 5:1, 55-66
  26. ^ "regional accents | Australian Voices". Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  27. ^ "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  28. ^ Frederick Ludowyk, 1998, "Aussie Words: The Dinkum Oil On Dinkum; Where Does It Come From?" (0zWords, Australian National Dictionary Centre). Access date: 5 November 2007. Archived 16 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "History of Measurement in Australia". web page. Australian Government National Measurement Institute. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  30. ^ Wilks, Kevin (1992). Metrication in Australia: A review of the effectiveness of policies and procedures in Australia's conversion to the metric system (PDF). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. p. 114. ISBN 0 644 24860 2. Retrieved 5 August 2017. Measurements used by people in their private lives, in conversation or in estimation of sizes had not noticeably changed nor was such a change even attempted or thought necessary.
  31. ^ a b "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  32. ^ a b "Macquarie Dictionary". Macquarie Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^ The So Called "American Spelling." Its Consistency Examined. pre-1901 pamphlet, Sydney, E. J. Forbes. Quoted by Annie Potts in this article
  35. ^ "Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » Webster in Australia". 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  36. ^ "Spelling Reform 1 - And Nothing Else!". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012.

Works cited

Further reading

External links

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