Can anybody tell me how the Australian accent came about?

It seems strange to me that it is not more like an English accent taking into account that the first and the majority of settlers were English.

Also, I am under the impression that those settlers were not really influenced linguistically by the native Aboriginal people much.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

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    I'm curious if someone could add information on any possible effects that penal colonies had on the dialect. It seems like it may have skewed the sample in the development of the dialect. (Briefly looking I have not found anything)
    – mfg
    May 3, 2011 at 19:45
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    It seems strange to me that you would consider BrE and AuE to be not very like each other. They are extremely similar to me, considering that they've two centuries to grow apart. Feb 5, 2014 at 8:53

6 Answers 6


Just so you know, modern British English doesn't sound much like English would have sounded like when Australia or the US/Canada was colonized. In fact, many Southeastern US accents are closer to British English from the 16-1700s than British English is today. The accent from Tangier Island, Virginia (video) is about as close to British English from the old times as you can get.

Several things did quite a number on British English, aside from the natural progression of accents over time, such as the advent of Received Pronunciation and its filtering into the general accents.

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    Interesting. But the Tangier Islanders appear to have a rhotic accent, which I don't think the Australian settlers had... May 3, 2011 at 10:40
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    Well, accents do change, even when on a tiny island for hundreds of years, it's just one of the closest. I can barely make heads or tails of what they're saying or even where the vowel sounds are when the accent is going full on, and I'm used to heavy accents. Rhoticity seems to be something that can change quickly in an accent as well. It's only taken a few decades for many US Southern dialects to become rhotic.
    – Phoenix
    May 3, 2011 at 12:12
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    At times that Tangier Island accent bears an uncanny resemblance to an East-Anglian accent (Norfolk/Suffolk, UK). But how anyone knows how people sounded pre Thomas Edison I really don't know.
    – MikeJ-UK
    May 3, 2011 at 12:56
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    Well, it's largely done through studies of related dialects and similarities between them. You narrow it down to things that all dialects have in common, and then things that this region has in common but is different than this other region, etc. By doing so you can work out a kind of evolutionary tree for the dialects. In much the same way, from studying the various Romance languages and other languages which have various words descended from Latin (such as German, Arabic, etc.), we know pretty well how the Romans would have spoken a couple thousand years ago.
    – Phoenix
    May 3, 2011 at 14:41
  • I've heard the accent from at least one of the coastal islands in Virginia (I don't remember whether it was Tangier Island or not). It sounded to me quite a bit like a British accent (although the speaker said that Brits say it sounds like an American accent), and it sounds nothing like the vast majority of Southeastern accents. Jun 1, 2014 at 23:33

A few accurate statements above, ie Australian is a blend of accents from all parts of the British Isle although admittedly it has a more east London sounding twang than anywhere else in Britain, but let me expand on that. Firstly there is no such thing as a British accent per say. The accent in the north east of England is as different from say Oxford in southern England as it is from Melbourne in Victoria and always was. Secondly, as someone already mentioned on this thread, accents in the British isle have changed tremendously since the days when Australasia and North America were first colonised, in fact British English has changed far more than American English over the last 200 years.

Australian developed the way it did, due to settled regions throughout the continent having roughly the same percentage of British & Irish immigrants from all parts of the UK per head of population. In America that was not the case, certain areas of America had more immigrants from particular parts of Britain and Ireland, plus unlike Australia, many early settlers also came from mainland Europe.

Ironically today in England, the new Estuary English accent which is expanding north and west from London amongst people who are predominantly under the age of around 40, is verging closer to the way modern Australians speak, in-particular the way they use a higher pitch at the end of a sentence, this speech pattern is also becoming popular in California.

  • +1 for british accent itself isn't homogeneous.
    – Pacerier
    Nov 30, 2016 at 12:24
  • I don't believe British English has changed any more than American English; they've just changed in quite different ways. Jan 8, 2019 at 10:48

The Australian accent is a blend of the accents of the first white settlers who came from all over the UK (with a bit of attitude thrown in).

See the Where did the Australian Accent Come from? documentary on YouTube for a further explanation.


Australian English is the standard language spoken in Australia. Its accents differ from various locations in all states and territories and show a regional and social diversity.

This is no different from accents in US, England etc.

Many immigrants established themselves in various locations, influencing the accent of the English spoken.

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    Actually, the diversity of accent in Australia and the US is considerably less than that in England. There have simply been people speaking English far longer in England than anywhere else, and that shows up in the dialects. Jun 2, 2014 at 0:19

As someone who was born in Tasmania, but spent much of his childhood in Norfolk, I've always been amazed by how little is mentioned about the uncanny relationship between the two accents. Take a good old Norfolk boy, put him in harsh sunlight so he has to squint his eyes, and surround him with flies so he has to keep his mouth pretty much closed, and you've got a pure Aussie voice. A looong toooime speeent on the vowels, a rising inflection, it's all there. This Norfolk/Suffolk accent would have been prevalent across the whole south east, before it was shoved out by cockney, so would have been the base of the flash argot of London, exported to Botany Bay and Tasmania.

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    This is really more of a comment than an answer. Can you provide references for your assertions?
    – Robusto
    Dec 30, 2012 at 17:35

Going by the "serious" documentary (most people simply send our accent up) hosted by John Clarke our accent is a deliberate creation in the 19 century by the freeborn "Currency" children of the convicts. The children of free settlers no doubt played a part in shaping the way we speak as well, but, it is the creation of children, all the same.

Convicts and settlers came from all over the British Isles bringing a hodgepodge of accents with them. The kids, according the documentary, wanted to separate themselves from their parents and say "no we are a product of this place, we were born HERE, not some place on the other side of the world."

So they deliberately got rid of any trace of the parents' accents in their own speech. The kids deliberately broadened and flattened their diction - and in the process of getting rid of "accent" created our distinctive sound. This creates a trap for foreign actors trying to do an Australian accent, noted Rachael Griffiths on the tape, because they make the mistake of trying to "put it on," overlaying our accent with their own. If they focused on laying off their own accent, they'd have better luck. Australian actors on the other hand find it easy to do foreign accents.

The English often accuse us of being lazy or careless in our pronunciation. The "picture" in the wall has become a "pitcha" in spoken Australian:the drawn out "err" sound at the end becoming a short "ah."

....as a digression....

The situation with the English is a bit like the American Slave language of Gullah. The purpose was different, but to the slave owners it sounded like baby-talk and they shrugged it off as an example of the slaves' lower intelligence. Failing to understand Gullah as a separate enabled slaves to speak freely before their masters without being understood by them.

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    Whom have the English not accused of being lazy or careless in their pronunciation (and in all else as well)? Including those of other English classes or towns, or other parts of the same English town. Not to mention the non-English British islanders. And in doing this the English have of course not been alone...
    – Drew
    Aug 21, 2014 at 1:45

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