Australian Dialect


After the discovery of Australia by Britain a few small colonies sprung up. The natives of the land, the Aborigines, were ignored and not thought off as a people. This is similar to the colonization of America. Around 1786, the social state in Britain was becoming unstable. Many prisons were full and the working classes were near revolt. William Pitt, the leader of Britain at the time, saw many eligible storage places in Africa, but decided on the untamed outback of Australia instead. Unlike British propaganda may have inferred, the voyage to Botany Bay was very pleasant on prisoners. This was no concentration camp, or even all that much of a punishment. The first boats to land upon the rocky shores of this new penal colony opened up bottles of rum and proceeded to christen their new abode. The education of these prisoners and their jailors sent to settle was little more than then knowledge of how to read, write, and basic mathematics. This provoked new colloquialisms from slang terms used between friends. Although they use Queens English, it is a sloppy, slurred version incorporating a lot of slang.


Even though Australia was meant to be a penal colony, it helped out a lot more prisoners than condemn them. Many pilgrims became farmers. After the discovery of such commodities as gold, silver, coal, copper, and whale oil, several Botany Bay colonists became very rich. In a matter of years the lands worth increased one thousand fold! In fact, in 1836 some men who had sold their land for ten pounds now saw their neighbors gaining ten thousand for the same size lot.


Most of the Australian dialect is derived from Queen’s English. The main difference is the heavy use of slang. Most of these are either a shortened form of the word, or an analogy type phrase. For example, any type of biting insect could be referred to as a “bitie.” Some more examples of the shortening of words are; “sunnies,” or sunglasses; “vedgies,” or vegetables; “journo,” or journalist. Another formation of slang is just that, slang. For example, a chicken is a chook, a swimsuit is called a tog, and sweets or candies are lollies. Speech problems associated with the Australian dialect include slurring, omission, and substitution, although most speech is slang.


The sounds that distinguish Australia form other regions are their shortened words and a slight draw. One might recognize an English accent lying heavily across a bushman’s tongue. This is from their British background. The shortened words and draw are a formation caused by laziness and lack of education. The Australian dialect is highly recognizable and is not often heard in the United States. Crocodile Dundee and The Rescuers Down Under are two movies with main characters sporting Aussie accents and using slang.