English Down Under: Popular or neglected?

Marta Nowacka, Beata Webb

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This paper is intended to present what non-Australians know about Australian English. The paper examines the results of the survey concerning Australian English administered to two groups of students: at the College and University of Rzeszów, Poland and at Bond University, Australia. The main aim of the questionnaire is to examine the respondents’ awareness and knowledge of distinctive features of this variety of English. First, the survey examines the subjects’ exposure to Australian English. Then, it explores the students’
familiarity with its typical features both in the range of vocabulary, e.g. clippings, idiomatic expressions, or rhyming slang, and pronunciation. The study was first carried out among Polish students of English at the Teacher Training College and the University of Rzeszów. The results were then analysed and compared to the data provided by international students of diverse linguistic and cultural background studying at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia.

The survey confirms our assumption that Australian English does not belong to a very popular variety of English especially for Polish learners. Most of our respondents are not able to list any characteristic features of this variety. Fewer than 10% point to some typical aspects with regard to its vocabulary, e.g. the use of expressions such as Goodday, No worries as colloquial forms of greeting, clippings like telly and brolly, the incorporation of some Cockney English and/or its distinct phonetic character, e.g. “pronouncing day like dye, articulating no in a different from British way”. On the whole, they describe the sound of Australian English as a mixture of mostly British English with a bit of American English.
One of our findings is that the only word which is recognized by more than 10% of the group is Aussie. Other vocabulary like didgeridoo, Pavlova, roo, Outback, Down Under, ANZAC and Vegemite scores less than 5%. We have also checked our respondents familiarity with some slang and colloquial expressions, e.g. a cuppa, dunny, to be fair dinkum, to be within coo-ee, to make a blue, to see sb in a rub-a-dub. Here we obtain varied ansewers pointing to the respondents’ greatest familarity with dunny, cuppa, to make a blue and to be fair dinkum and their unawareness of expressions which originate from Cockney rhyming slang.
Our observation is also that our respondents are not able to characterize the Australian English pronunciation since they most frequently admit to their unafamiliarity with the statement in question. In the list of Australian phonetic features the most numerously marked answers concern the following: the distinct from British rendition of diphthongs GOAT and MOUTH, e.g. coach realized in a similar way to couch, bay pronounced simiarly to buy. Within vowels our respondents also indicate the raising of TRAP (Australian flash may sound like flesh) as well as the very open quality of word final COMMA, e.g. ever pronounced similarly to a Polish word Ewa. Some of our respondents
are also aware of intervocalic t voicing in words like butter and better.
In addition, the paper explores different factors influencing the students’ awareness and knowledge of the Australian English, including nationality and the home country’s proximity to Australia. It aims to determine the relationship between these factors and varied degrees of the respondents’ familiarity with this variety of English.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
EventAccents 2013: 7th International Conference on Native and Non-native Accents of English - University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland
Duration: 5 Dec 20137 Dec 2013
Conference number: 7th


ConferenceAccents 2013: 7th International Conference on Native and Non-native Accents of English
Abbreviated titleACCENTS 2013
Internet address


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