Australian English

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Australian English refers to the dialects of the English language spoken in Australia, and popularly to the accents too. It is not a single dialect, similar for all speakers throughout the country, and differs from region to region and within the same towns, cities and local communities.

Spelling conventions

Written Australian English shares spellings with the varieties of English used in many other countries, particularly those that were part of the old British Empire. These predominantly originated in the United Kingdom and are part of what is sometimes called 'Commonwealth English'. However, some words differ in spelling: for instance, the name of the Australian Labor Party is spelt in the same way as in the United States of America, rather than as labour, which is used in the UK. Another example is program in all contexts, which some Australian politicians have attempted to replace with the more 'British' programme (though program was common in the UK until the 20th century).[1]

Is 'Australian English' also 'Standard English'?

'Standard Australian English' - meaning the formal variety of English which is the subject of dictionaries and grammar books, and is taught in schools and to learners of English in Australia - is just one form of Australian English today. Linguists would consider its study highly valuable, but other Australian dialects would be equally worthy of consideration. Confining the definition of 'Australian English' to the standard variety also creates a problem: all forms of a living language change all the time, as new generations develop new vocabulary or reanalyse one aspect of their native language's grammar in a slightly different way from how their parents used it. This also applies to the 'standard' language, though this process is typically slowed by its being codified in a set of written conventions and prescriptivist grammar rules. If linguists were to agree with the popular definition of Australian English as standard English, new innovations would go uncatalogued and linguistic diversity could not be used as data to further understanding of language itself

Footnotes

  1. Sydney Morning Herald: 'Get with the 'programme', public servants'. 2nd October 2013. (A reader poll on this story favoured program by 70% over 30% for programme.)

See also