Australian English month continues with a new guest post from Jesse Karjalainen. Jesse is Australian but lives in the UK and works as a writer and editor. He also edits the online English-usage website www.whichenglish.com.
One thing that really sets “Strine” – or (au)STRA(li)AN English – apart from its linguistic cousins is its almost distinct lack of regional accents. Like it or not, the difference often comes down to class.
Unlike Britain, and to a broader sense America, where you can travel from region to region and hear people speaking differently, Australians don’t seem to sound any different as you travel round the country.
While it is true that you might be able to distinguish a subtle nuance of, say, a Tasmanian speaker and guess where they are from by the way they say certain words, overall Australian English is homogeneous and relatively free of localised accents. But this doesn’t mean that everyone speaks the same. To the contrary.
There are said to be three strands of Australian accent. These are generally classified as General Australian and its two extremes Broad Australian and Cultivated Australian. There is also a fourth, but more on that in a moment.
General Australian is what a good majority speak. It is the accent of the “educated”, urban dwelling Australians of the cities and the suburbs. This is the type of Australian seen on, for instance, any of the great television exports, Neighbours and Home and Away. But not everyone talks like this. No.
On one end of the scale is the more true-blue, working-man’s Strine; linguists refer to it as Broad Australian; Australians might call it ocker – and it is what foreigners might think of as “unintelligible”. This sounds more the late Steve Irwin of The Crocodile Hunter. This is the kind of English where really sounds like “roolly” and I am going to the beach, mate sounds like “gar’na boych may”.
On the other end of the scale is Cultivated Australian, typically gained from having grown up in the right circles and usually having gone to private school. This effectively serves as the upper-class accent of Australia, even though talk of class is much to be discouraged. It is also associated with older, more British-sounding English, such as those found in old episodes of Skippy.
This type of English sounds pretty much like an affected form of British English – yet still doesn’t. The tell-tale signs are words like private; cultivated Australians will say they went to “praa-vate” school, where they were taught never to say tinny (= a can of beer), fair dinkum (= true, genuine) or smoko (= a cigarette or coffee break).
The fourth, often neglected category of Australian accents is that belonging to ethnic minorities, new and second-generation Australians. Not everyone, of course, but Greek Australians often sound different from Italian Australians. Chinese Australians will sound different from Vietnamese Australians. The multitude of ethnic groups that make up Australia’s diverse population is yet another striking feature of what makes Australian English audibly different. No matter how strong a particular ethnic speaker’s accent may be, every now and then you’ll hear the unmistakable sound of an Aussie accent breaking through. This is the sound of a New Australian growing their wings.Email this Post