A South Australian in Melbourne/Different Australian Accents?

Frances   Thursday, March 10, 2005, 09:48 GMT

I found this website earlier on and think it is fantastic! Its also very fitting considering some comments I have received and some observations I have made.

I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne about six weeks ago and I have had a lot of people ask me where I am from or have thought that I am a Kiwi! (not sure if it is because of my non-English speaking background but I seem to have a typical SA accent). I noticed some "accental" differences between South Australians and Victorians prior to moving here but have noticed more since moving over. I apologise if I write sounds sloppy, I'm not a trained linguist.

Apart from the obvious differences in words such as castle, plant and graph, Victorians tend to do something that I call "vowel swapping". It is doesn't seem to occur in other Australian states, it is characteristic to Victoria. What I mean by this is that "a's" become "e's", "e's become a's" and sometimes "e's become "i's". Coincidentally, a friend of mine who is from Adelaide that moved to Melb a few years before me said that she was familiar of this occurring and called it the same phrase quite independently of me.

For example, I've noticed that Victorians say:

(1) "epplication" instead of "application"; "belcony" instead of "balcony"; "elphabet" instead of "alphabet" (all with "e" as in "egg").

(2) "twalve" instead of "twelve"; "as wall" in instead of "as well"; "salary" instead of "celery" (all with "a" as in "alphabet").

(3) "Dendinong" instead of "Dandenong" - this might be because of "sloppy" pronunciation - not sure.

Example 1. I was able to pick out a Victorian behind a counter in a shop at Margaret River, WA on the basis of his speech, but in particular, on the use of the word of "balcony" in our conversation. I asked him if he was Victorian and he told me he was from Brunswick (suburb of Melb).

To my ears, there seems to be a running "a" tone in the Victorian tongue and seems to be more "twangy" but "drawly", whilst an SA speaker is a bit more rounded in speech and maybe even "clipped".

I think there are minor geographical differences in speech around Australia (eg kewl and schewl in NSW/Qld), but I think SA is the most different to other states. I don't think the differences are as wide as say between the regions of the USA.

I agree that "accents" (if you want to call it that) vary on the basis of socio-economic status and along the city-rural divide.

Example 2. My husband and I (my husband is also from SA) went to country Qld and ordered a sandwich from a busy place where people lined up for sandwiches. Many of those in the store jaws dropped when they heard us talk. Maybe to their ears we sounded "cultivated" or English even. I'm sure it had something to do with a city-SA accented person in a country Qld town.


In relation, to the non-Cockney English "SA accent", I've read a few of the posts from last year and some say it is due to the large influx of English migrants to Adelaide in the 1950's. This may have influenced the SA tongue to a certain extent. The settlement occurred in Elizabeth, a group of suburbs to the north of Adelaide (25-30km from CBD). However, I'm not sure if the changes in accent there would be strong enough to reach other parts of Adelaide and SA. For example, I'm sure the Burnside area of Adelaide may already sound English due to being a higher-socio economic area. Yet again, I know of someone who grew up in Elizabeth and who's father was English, yet her accent is one of the most broadest accents I have ever heard. If you take note of the fact that Elizabeth is a poor socio-economic area, then it might explain the broadness of her speech but doesn't take into account that she doesn't sound English at all. Still, that's me making a generalisation on the basis of me analysing one person from Elizabeth and maybe a misconception of linking accent broadness to socio-economic background.

I think everyone is forgetting that SA was a free-settled colony (and maybe from a different socio-economic background?) and that also quite a few German immigrants had settled as well. This may have a seminal influence on the "SA accent". However, I'm not sure how a German fusion would influence the accent.

Any thoughts re Victorian accent and SA accents? Love to hear from you.

Morgan   Thursday, March 10, 2005, 10:23 GMT
I think the differences (apart from the unique Victorian ones you describe well) are mainly due to socio-economic factors. I'm not sure interstate variations are notably significant. When I hear South Australians, of the likes of Leighton Hewitt (tennis player), David Hookes (late cricketer) and other celebrities, I don't hear anything concretely distinctive that gives away their state of origin. I couldn't tell which state they were from until told. Alexander Downer (minister from SA) almost sounds British but the background as to his diction is a mystery. His accent is Australian but it is un-Australianly stuffy.
Tom K.   Thursday, March 10, 2005, 14:11 GMT
I've found some linguistic research papers about this. Regional differences may be emerging. I'm not sure if anyone's interested in reading the papers though, they're kind of hard to read if you're not up on linguistic terms.

"The Border Effect: Vowel Differences across the NSW-Victorian Border"

"Vowel Change in Australia"
Frances   Thursday, March 10, 2005, 20:31 GMT
Thanks for responses - will endeavour to read weblinks. I agree with you Morgan re Alexander Downer versus Lleyton Hewitt. Alexander as you would know is of a well known political family from the well-to-do Adelaide Hills and Lleyton Hewitt from the middle-class West Lakes.

Me on the other hand, am from working socio-economic background (between Port Adelaide and Woodville) and speak I would say with a general accent and has been refined probably by education. The Elizabeth person that I mentioned has also recieved education and was the daughter of a teacher. I forgot to mention that her mother is of German stock and I think maybe her grandfather can't speak English.
Jim   Friday, March 11, 2005, 00:07 GMT
There exists a spectrum of Aussie accents. One end the linguists call "cultivated" (this is Dower's end) and the other end they call "broad" (e.g. Steve Irwin). Most of us fall in the middle, what the linguists call "general". These are the three categories they talk of but really it's all one spectrum of Aussie accents. This is the main variation in accent but I'm sure some regional variation exists (though to a lesser extent).
Larry   Friday, March 11, 2005, 01:56 GMT
Wasn't Alexander Downer educated in the UK? That would explain his British accent...
Jim   Friday, March 11, 2005, 02:20 GMT
There's no explaining necessary because Downer hasn't got a British accent: he's got an Australian one. The Australian accents toward the cultivated end of the spectrum sound a lot like British Received Pronunciataion but they're still Australian accents. You don't have to have ever been out of Australia to have an accent like his.
Frances   Friday, March 11, 2005, 05:20 GMT
I think agree that maybe there isn't more than one Australian accent, just Broad, General and Cultivated, but what about the "Victorian phenomenon"? What do you call something that is not an accent but is a slight geographical variation?
Tony   Friday, March 11, 2005, 06:57 GMT
Downer is the only Aus politican that speaks like a good little choirboy. There's no teddy bear quite like him except for his own family members who are like his junior clones. It must run in the family.
colin   Friday, March 11, 2005, 08:15 GMT

take it easy, man

at least you know what they are talking about,dont you

sometime i cant follow them at all, however, i am not a Australian,haha
rich7   Friday, March 11, 2005, 08:49 GMT
Accentual or accental...

). I noticed some "accental" differences between South Australians and Victorians prior to moving here but have noticed more since moving over. I apologise
Jim   Monday, March 14, 2005, 00:13 GMT

What do I call something that is not an accent but is a slight geographical variation? A "hill" ... No, I'd still call it an accent: all I'm saying is that a Melbourne accent it's all that different from a Sydney one.

On the one hand, yes, there really is only one Australian accent but, on the other, there are twenty million. There is some geographical variation but the major factor is class-based.
Frances   Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 21:12 GMT
I'm still thinking about issues. Considering Broad, General, Cultivated, would you consider the SA "accent" at the more cultivated end of Australian speech?

Tom K
Read the papers that you have provided links for. Very interesting, the bits I can understand. Papers dispute "e" Vicitorian phenomenon (as in "Elbert"). Interesting to note short "ou" for SA. I agree. I'm going to get of hold of a book in due course about Australian English, I'm particularly interested in Oasa's paper, its mentioned as a reference in the "Vowel Change in Australia" article.
Jim   Thursday, March 17, 2005, 01:49 GMT
I'm not sure whether the SA accent is more toward the cultivated end of the spectrum. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be to say that there are a greater proportion of speakers toward the cultivated end of the spectrum in SA.