The evolution of the Australian accent

January 25, 2018 by Farah Abdurahman, University of Western Sydney
The evolution of the Australian accent
Credit: University of Western Sydney

Australia Day; it's snags on the barbie, mozzies, long necks, Akubra hats and that all Aussie sun blazing through our SPF 50+.

But what is it that makes good ol' Straya so unique? Well, it's the of course.

The Australian accent has evolved at a phenomenal rate since European settlers first met the original inhabitants of the continent, and later mixed with new immigrants to create today's Australia.

Stacey Sherwood, a Ph.D. student at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, (who is researching social knowledge in the production and perception of linguistic variation), said speakers of the present- day Australian accent were not all born here, with many people having arrived here as children.

"In fact the Australian accent developed from generations of migrants from diverse origins," she said.

"All accents have features which make them unique, and ours is no different.

"The Australian accent is distinctive and uniquely ours. The things we talk about and the ways we talk about them are intimately entwined within our sense of self."

Ms Sherwood said Australian English, or Strine, has particular ways of pronouncing vowels and consonants to distinguish it from other varieties of English.

She said the major influences of Strine were Cockney and Irish English, but also English spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who contributed many iconic words to our modern vocabulary such as; kangaroo, wombat, billabong etc.

To help understand the history and evolution of Strine, a large-scale collaborative research project was launched in 2011.

Western Sydney University was the leading institution responsible for creating the largest state-of-the-art database of modern Australian English—AusTalk.

Dr. Dominique Estival, a senior researcher at the MARCS Institute at Western Sydney University, was one of the leading researchers on the AusTalk project that took more than five years to complete.

She said Australian English had changed so significantly throughout its history that it had become "a matter of national interest to carefully document our linguistic heritage as an important record of our collective identity within our changing culture."

"Our accent is a powerful and enduring symbol of national identity that we preserve despite the influx of electronic media and cultural icons.

However, just as society changes, so too does language as it constantly evolves to meet the changing needs of its users."

Dr. Estival said AusTalk provided a valuable digital repository of present day speech as a snapshot of Australian linguistic history.

She said AusTalk was a national treasure that will provide a permanent record of Australian English.

"It will also support Australian speech science research and development, and help develop Australian speech technology applications, from better telephone-based speech recognition systems (e.g., taxi bookings) and computer avatars, to hearing aids and improvements in Cochlear Implants, or computer aids for learning-impaired children."

Explore further: Why does the UK have so many accents?

More information: The database is publicly available, free to use and easily accessible. For more information, visit:

Related Stories

Why does the UK have so many accents?

January 10, 2018

Where we come from matters. Our origins form an important part of a distinctive personality, which can become a group identity when we share these origins. More often than not, our use of language, especially our dialect, ...

New study to examine Aussie English

March 23, 2015

A new study of Australian English is trying to find out if Australians all sound the same, or if people speak differently in the country compared to cities or across the states.

Bilingual children are better at recognizing voices

June 12, 2017

Bilingual children are better than their monolingual peers at perceiving information about who is talking, including recognizing voices, according to a study by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Explainer: What is foreign accent syndrome?

June 20, 2013

In the past few days, a great deal of media attention has been paid to Leanne Rowe, a Tasmanian woman who has lived eight years with a French accent she acquired after a car accident. This phenomenon is known as foreign accent ...

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.