What are the Features of Mainstream Australian Accent?
Voice Science helps you apply features of the Australian accent. What makes Australians sound Australian? Phonetics & speech pathology approach.
What is it about the Aussie Accent?
The Mainstream Australian Accent is a distinct accent produced by native English speakers in Australia. It’s a tough accent to replicate, even for actors in Hollywood.
At Voice Science™ we assist internationals to learn core features of the Australian accent by training the rules of Mainstream Australian pronunciation.
Clients who choose to alter their English pronunciation may at times want to opt for a fixed accent as the model they aim towards. At Voice Science™ we assist clients to increase their communication ease and pronunciation consistency but we are aware that everyone’s preference is different.
How you speak and sound is a very personal thing!
Some speakers may wish to incorporate some local, Australian pronunciation features into their speech patterns. If so, we can assist you by providing you with information on what you might like to add in and how to do it! Other speakers may want to sound more intelligible but neutral, we can also assist you. Australian pronunciation is one of the many speech pronunciation codes we can follow if you wish to work on your pronunciation. Read more about what features you can work on with us to incorporate some rules of Australian English into your pronunciation.
Communication Strategies. Voice Science TV.
Put a Face to Voice Science
Every week we push new content over on our YouTube channel. Our video tutorials are designed to give you actionable strategies to improve your: Speaking, Vocabulary, Voice Tone, Pronunciation, Accent, Fluency, Social Communication, Language for Leadership & Workplace Communication.
So what is it that makes Australians sound Australian?
There has been some research into the features that define Mainstream Australian English speech patterns. While Australia has a mix of cultures and language groups all of which can be seen as Australian the speech patterns of Mainstream Australian English refer to the “dominant dialect … used by a vast majority of speakers… those who are typically born in Australia or who migrate at an early age (Cox and Palethorpe, 2007).”
What’s the best way to describe the Australian Accent?
Describing the sounds and rules of accents of the world is best done using the International phonetic alphabet (IPA). This alphabet provides a code for specific sounds. At Voice Science™ , our English pronunciation programs train clients in how to use phonetics to create the pronunciation features required for Mainstream Australian speech patterns and many other accents.
In the past, the Australian accent has been described in terms of how “broad” it is on a continuum of broadness to cultivated. These days research identifies that the extremes across the continuum are narrowing.
Speakers of Australian English share the same consonants as speakers of General American and British English. It’s how Australian native speakers use the consonants that counts. Here are a few rules that characterise Australian accent inflections:
#1 The Australian accent is non-rhotic
The Australian accent is for the most part non-rhotic. This means that the pronunciation of the /r/ sound will never occur at the end of words. Where an American will say three separate sounds for the word car /kar/, an Australian native speaker will only say 2 /ka:/. This is a key feature that only occasionally has exceptions.
Sometimes native speakers will pronounce the /r/ sound at the end of the word if linking two words closely but only if the next word contains a vowel sound at the start. For example: “The car is running on empty” could be received as /kɑːrɪz/, the last /r/ sound of the word “car” is pronounced because a vowel will follow it in the next word and because the speaker is linking words together closely and fluently.
We also can insert an /r/ sound when linking 2 words when two vowel sounds occur consecutively. We call this intrusive or epenthic /r/. As a result you may be able to hear the /r/ sound falling between these two words (and others) sometimes even though there is no “r” letter present : saw it /sɔːrət/.
Our English pronunciation training program will assist you with this rule if you would like to incorporate it into your speech patterns. Integrating the epenthic /r/ sound serves to increase the flow and efficiency of your pronunciation as it’ll allow you to move between words quicker with more coordination so that you can focus on your ideas rather than speech mechanics.
#2 Pronunciation of /t/
The more cultivated the accent, the more the listener will hear a /t/ in all or most positions of a word. Articulation of an explosive /t/ without voice vibration 100% of the time however will not create natural speech patterns for Australian English. Even a “well-spoken” Australian native speaker will show some pronunciation variations.
Most Australians will show instances where the /t/ sound is deleted or flapped.
Australian speakers are likely to delete the /t/ sound at the end of words, just like speakers with an American accent. When the /t/ sound is deleted a glottal stop is inserted in its place.
This can be a difficult feature to add for a non-native speaker. It’s recommended that a speech pathologist assist you in including this sound to ensure that vocal health remains. A glottal stop is formed deep in the voice box with air pressure. If created incorrectly it can cause some voice inflammation or just sound weird!
Australian accent also features flapping. This is the softening of /t/ in the middle of words or at the end of words between vowels.
When the “t” sound is flapped, it’ll sound a lot more like a soft /d/ sound.
Therefore “letter” /lɛtə/ may at times sound like “ledder” /lɛɾʌ/. When native speakers flap the “t” it usually results in a vowel change at the end of the word.
Flapping is also present in General American Accent.
#3 We don’t Yod-drop
When an Australian native speaker pronounces words that often contain a “consonant letter + u” (for example words like music, Tuesday, tune, intuition) they will insert a yod. A yod refers to the phonetic sound /j/ which you hear at the start of words like yes, yellow, you. Australians will insert the yod in many contexts where speakers of other English accents won’t use it.
At Voice Science we can train you in the pronunciation of the Yod to bring speech patterns closer to the local pronunciation rules of English, if you so choose.
We hear the timing differences on vowels most when we hear the Australian diphthongs. Diphthongs are present in many languages and are created when two vowels occur side by side on a syllable. The way you move from the first vowel to the second will determine how close your pronunciation is to Mainstream Australian English. This is defined by how long the first vowel is in relation to the second vowel and also how accurately you shape your mouth and coordinate the individual sounds as you link them. Words that will sound distinctly Australian are usually those where we hear a diphthong fall. These are often the hardest to pronounce accurately for Internationals, especially speakers of languages that have a small number of vowels, often as few as 5-10 (for example: Italian, Spanish, Greek, Thai, Vietnamese).
#1 Monophthongs (Single Vowels)
Of all accents of English, Mainstream Australian English is one of the most expansive in terms of vowel sounds. Where General American accent has a total of 16 vowels, Received Pronunciation (Standard British) and Mainstream Australian English both hit a total of up to 20. Discussion is out among researchers about what vowels the Mainstream Australian accent has, but most will agree 20. While there are some similarities between British and Australian vowels, there are also many noticeable differences, obviously! The timing of Australian vowels is one of the most important features. Although Australian native speakers share many of the vowels of both British and American English, the duration of the vowel and the mouth shaping can differ significantly. This can be noticed for the most part with long vowels. Long vowels in Australia, are longer in duration maybe than any other English accent you have ever heard. The broader the accent, the longer.
Voice Resonance Features
Australian English often contains higher levels of nasal resonance to oral resonance. Resonance refers to voice acoustics and is determined by where the bulk of sound vibration from the voice is reinforced in the your face.
Among Australian native speakers there is a trend for vowels to be articulated with high energy spectrum in the mouth as well as nasal passage ways.
This is what creates a distinct form of voicing that makes Australian speakers sound very different from BBC presenters who typically have higher ratios of oral (internal mouth based) sound waves.
Not all clients at Voice Science™ choose to alter their voice resonance features when working to improve their English pronunciation.
We don’t recommend trying to change how your voice sounds by yourself. Without support from a voice therapist you can get yourself into trouble if sounds are made unhealthily in your throat.
This is one area that our team really excell in. When we work with you on your Australian Pronunciation training, we’ll be monitoring your vocal health carefully so that you can speak with good projection and comfort.
Is it possible to get an Australian Accent?
While drill based training works to enhance a client’s production of sound targets in most cases adults are unable to re-align their speech mechanism to new patterns of production with 100% accuracy and minimal conscious control or monitoring. Typical outcomes from accent modification training include, increased speech rhythm accuracy, increased intelligibility, increased consonant clarity and heightened vowel accuracy. Obtaining a consistent target accent profile is contingent upon each syllable of a word receiving the required sound up to spontaneous speech tasks. Given that the rate of speech for a typical adult rests between 160 – 220 syllables per minute, the frequency of sound variation cannot be realistically perfected in an adult to the level of 100% accuracy especially without conscious control.
Our programs take into account this fact and are designed to provide you with the information needed about how sounds of English are formed so you can work to increase your consistency and clarity when pronouncing English.
Obviously there are many more features that we are excited to show you if you want to opt for improving English pronunciation that follows the rules of Australian English. Enrol in Your Personalised Pronunciation Audit now to get started!
Free English Pronunciation Tips 🗣️
Find free tips for a mix of different language backgrounds
See loads of our accent tips for non-native speakers.
We have heaps of tips for many language backgrounds including:
- Thai Accent Reduction Tips
- Japanese Accent Reduction Tips
- Arabic Accent Reduction Tips
- Bulgarian Accent Reduction Tips
- Russian Accent Reduction Tips
- Mandarin Accent Reduction Tips
- Cantonese Accent Reduction Tips
- Vietnamese Accent Reduction Tips
- Spanish Accent Reduction Tips
And so many more!