Englishes in Australia

English spoken in Australia is usually referred to as ‘Australian English’, a broad term which encompasses the various types of English spoken by people across the country. Australian English is a unique dialect which evolved from a mixture of sources from the late 18th century onwards, and today the language has characteristic linguistic features which set it apart from English dialects elsewhere. As with any language, lots of variation is possible among speakers of Australian English – differences can show up in things like pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and interaction styles, and these differences can occur for all sorts of reasons, including social, cultural, and regional factors. Three major subgroups of Australian English are recognised, all with their own variation: Standard Australian English, Aboriginal English, and Ethnocultural Australian English. People can also move between speaking different types of Australian English, depending on contextual and individual factors.

Despite what some people think, English is not the official language of Australia – there is no official language specified in the constitution. But, it is the most widely used language in the country. According to the 2011 census, 76.8% of people in Australia speak English at home. Many other people also use English, but in addition to one or more languages that they use at home. There are hundreds of other languages spoken by people in Australia – around 50,000 people speak an Indigenous language at home, and many people whose families migrated to Australia speak languages from places including Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of these languages have made their mark on Australian English, for example in place names, borrowed words, and expressions.  From the particular mix of dialects which Australian English was born from, followed by natural patterns of language change and diverse linguistic and cultural influences, Australian English has become a distinctive variety among the Englishes of the world, and continues to grow and change.

You can find out more about the Australian English in the pages below on history, accents, vocabulary and grammar.

People who speak English at home as a fraction of total persons, in Australia, according to the 2011 census results. (source)

History

English spoken in Australia is distinct from other varieties of English spoken around the world, such as in the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand – in each of these places, the particular combination of historical and sociocultural factors has influenced the direction English has taken. Australian English has evolved from a mixture of sources, … Continue reading History

Accents

The Australian accent is one of the main ways people recognise this variety of English, but there is definitely more than one way to speak English in Australia, and more than one type of Australian accent. Australian English does not show dramatic dialectal differences across the country, as you might hear in places like the United … Continue reading Accents

Vocabulary

Australian English is famous for its distinctive vocabulary, but there is more to the Australian lexicon than throwing a shrimp on the barbie – the words used by English speakers in Australia can tell us a lot about the history of the language, and the diverse influences that have contributed to it over the last … Continue reading Vocabulary

Grammar

When linguists talk about grammar, they mean the system a language has for putting things together – the ways that speakers of a language combine words, and bits of words, to form sentences, and then put them together. The rules of a language are defined by the users – the people who speak, sign or write the … Continue reading Grammar