Australian English is the aggregation of all varieties of English used throughout Australian society, including ethnocultural varieties and Aboriginal English. Over the past decades Australian English has been influenced by various cultural factors.
International culture has been manifesting itself in Australia through the mass immigration from Europe and Asia whilst popular culture is being imported from the United States via entertainment. Technological culture has engrained itself into Australia; Australians regularly use various forms of electronic-mediated communication such as texting. These factors have caused Australian English to merge closer to the other national varieties of English in the world. Nevertheless, Australian English remains quite distinct from the other national varieties due to the resilience of the Australian accent and Australian Aboriginal English. The influence of Australian popular culture imported from the United States has caused Australian English to converge towards American English. Australians are exposed to American culture and language through various modes of entertainment: television, film, and music. As a result of this exposure young Australians have incorporated American lexemes into their vocabulary, and hence into Australian English; the terms ???what??™s up,??™ ???fair enough,??™ ???go figure,??™ ???buddy??™ and ???man??™ are commonplace in their discourse.
Distinctively Australian terms are being replaced by American equivalents; the American terms ???buddy??™ and ???man??™ have replaced the Australian term ???mate??™ and the American greeting ???what??™s up??™ is replacing the Australian ???how ya goin??™ (sic). These two things, particularly the substitution of Australian phrases for American ones, highlight how Australian English is adopting features of American English and is, by extension, losing some of its distinctiveness. Technological culture in the form of electronic-mediated communication (EMC) has brought with it a convergence of the lexicon of Australian English to that of other national varieties. EMC pervades much of the lives of Australians today; it is commonplace for Australians to send text messages through mobile phones and use instant messaging services and social networking websites such as MSN and Facebook.
The desire for brevity in these media have spawned new acronyms, abbreviations and shortenings of existing words and phrases to be added to the Australian lexicon; ???sup??™ (a shortening of the aforementioned American greeting ???what??™s up??™), ???cbs??™ (an abbreviation of ???cannot be stuffed??™) and ???rofl??™ (an acronym of ???rolling on floor laughing) are examples. Conversion, wherein nouns are used as verbs, is another process in which new lexemes were added to the Australian lexicon; the brief verb phrases ???to friend??™ and ???to homework??™ (and its present continuous form ???homeworking??™) are substituted for the lengthier verb phrases ???to add someone as a friend??™ and ???to complete homework??™ respectively. These lexemes have not only been added to the Australian lexicon; they have been added to the lexicons of other national varieties of English where EMC is pervasive. This suggests that the Australian lexicon, hence Australian English, is merging closer to those of other national varieties. The mass immigration into Australia primarily from Europe and Asia after the Second World War has also caused a loss of uniqueness to Australian English to an extent. The immigrants??™ first languages have affected the way they spoke English, and this gave rise to ethnolects. These ethnolects can be considered an element of Australian English as they are used to a great extent in Australian society, particularly in regions where the concentration of individuals of a certain ethnic group is high. Second-generation immigrants also use their ethnolect, again particularly in regions where there is a high concentration of their ethnicity or where the ethnolect is considered fashionable.
These ethnolects are a reflection of the immigrants??™ heritage. For instance, most Italian words end with ???a??™ or ???o,??™ such as the Italian word ???bambino.??™ This has affected the Italian ethnolect in terms of morphology, where they use the suffix ???-o??™ for many English nouns, so the words ???car??™ and ???football??™ become ???cara??™ and ???footballa.??™ Another example is the Indian ethnolect, where the lack of diphthongs in the Indian languages gave rise to the distinctive phonetic feature of Indian English ??“ monophthongisation. The word ???today,??™ usually pronounced as /tude?/, is pronounced as /tude:/. However, these ethnolects and their features are not unique to Australia; they are present in other countries where immigration is pervasive such as the UK, and amongst the English speakers of the immigrants??™ native countries.
One would find Indian immigrants ??“ and hence the Indian ethnolect ??“ in the UK, the US, Canada and India itself. This fact highlights how Australian English is adopting elements that are also prevalent in other national varieties of English, and is hence losing its uniqueness. Despite the extensive influences of international, popular and technological culture on Australia, the Australian accent has never lost its distinctiveness. In the documentary ???The Sounds of Aus??™ John Clarke has highlighted the uniqueness of the Australian accent by describing it as ???a miracle that no other culture has come up with.
??™ Prominent linguist Dr Felicity Cox has described it as ???bulletproof??™ when discussing the influence of popular culture on it. The main distinctive feature of the Australian accent, according to voice coach Victoria Mielevska, is that it is ???based on the soft palate…starting to relax down.
??™ Another major feature of the accent is that unlike other accents the tongue is relatively still, hence the ???lazy accent??™ description. The [r] sound is non rhotic, so that the word ???river??™ is pronounced as /r?v?/, whereas the American accent has a rhotic [r] in that the word would be pronounced as /r?v?r/. The [l] is vocalised, in that the word ???hill??™ is pronounced as /h??/ instead of /h?l/. Front vowels are raised due to the lack of movement of the tongue; in the word ???today,??™ the /e/ is raised to an /?/ so that the word is pronounced as /tud??/ instead of /tude?/. The Australian accent can be split into three categories: the Broad accent, the General accent, and the Cultivated accent. The above features are common to the Broad and General accent.
The Broad accent is the most distinctively Australian, where the above features are highly prominent in speech, and is mostly prevalent in the country. The Cultivated accent resembles British Received Pronunciation and effectively has few features in common with the other two accents. The General accent is an intermediate between the Broad and Cultivated accents, but is closer to the Broad than the Cultivated. Use of the Broad accent has decreased over the past few decades as more people are moving into the cities, which does point to a convergence of the Australian accent towards that of other national varieties. However, this is counteracted by the decline in the use of the Cultivated accent ??“ which resembles the British accent, another national variety – as it lost its association with power, prestige and scholarship and developed overtones of snobbery and arrogance. Meanwhile, the use of the General accent has increased significantly.
Since it still possesses the abovementioned distinctive features, the overall effect of this shift was that the Australian accent has drifted away from other national varieties; it has maintained its distinctiveness. Aboriginal English has been resistant to the influence of technology, popular culture and immigration, and in doing so it has maintained the uniqueness of Australian English. Aboriginal English can be considered a part of Australian English because it is widely used in Aboriginal communities, which is a part of Australian society.
Aboriginal English is a variety that developed in Australia and is found nowhere else in the world. Like the ethnolects, Aboriginal English possesses features of the native Aboriginal languages. Phonetic features include the substitution of the bilabial stop phonemes /p/ and /b/ for the labio-dental fricatives /f/ and /v/ and the use of the phoneme /d/ in replacement of /?/. Aborigines would pronounce ???that??™ as /d?t/ instead of /??t/ and ???devil??™ as /deb?l/ instead of /dev?l/. A lexeme unique to Aboriginal English is ???fathergether??™ (a blending of ???father??™ and ???together??™), meaning a father and son. Other lexemes include ???fella??™ (a shortening of ???fellow??™) and ???nunga??™ (an Aborigine).
A syntactic feature is the use of ???eh??™ and ???unna??™ as interrogative tags, for instance in the interrogative ???Bad weather, unna and the dropping of the copula verb in sentences with only a subject and a predicate complement; the sentence ???he good??™ assigns the predicate complement (good) to the subject (he) without the use of the copula (is). Semantic features include: the use of ???mother??™ to describe one??™s maternal parent and her sisters (instead of the maternal parent alone), the use of ???cousin??™ to describe a friend, and the use of ???business??™ to describe traditional lore and ritual. One would never encounter such features of Aboriginal English anywhere else in the world, and Aboriginal English was unaffected by the influence of technological, popular and international cultures. Hence Australian English has maintained its distinctiveness in terms of one of its forms ??“ Aboriginal English. International, popular and technological culture has influenced the various elements of Australian English to varying degrees, such that Australian English has converged somewhat to other national varieties of English.
Popular culture has had a merging effect on the Australian lexicon, where American lexical items were adopted. International culture in the form of immigration gave rise to ethnolects in Australia that are common to other countries, also having a merging effect on Australian English as a whole. Technological culture has caused the Australian lexicon to merge with that of other countries as the lexicons have all adopted the same lexemes. However, these influences did not affect the phonology of Australian English ??“ the Australian accent – and Aboriginal English remains as resilient as ever. Whilst Australian English today has some features in common with that of other countries, it still remains distinctive and hence can be worn as a badge of Australian identity.