History of Australian English

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This chapter presents an overview of historical accounts of Australian English. The earliest of these falls into two basic schools of thought: the new variety was an amalgam of the various relocated dialects (“mixing bowl theory”), or was basically London English with a dash of other dialects (“single origin theory”). Accepted wisdom now explains the evolution of postcolonial dialects like Australian English through the process of koinéization, with social conditions and identity constructions contributing to the story. Other linguists emphasize the demographic factors that influenced the outcomes of Australia’s dialect melting pot, such as proportions of different dialect features. All agree that Australian English was, and remains, a remarkably uniform variety, attributing this to factors such as supraregionalisation, the high mobility of speakers, the fall-out of dialect mixing and subsequent “drift”. As expected, however, time has seen local differences on the increase, with the separation of urban and rural communities inspiring some of the richest regional diversity. Migrant varieties are also adding new socially relevant aspects. And while Australian English has incorporated little from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, varieties of Aboriginal English and creoles have been adding vibrant new socially and regionally relevant dimensions to English in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralian English Reimagined
Subtitle of host publicationStructure, Features and Developments
EditorsLouisa Willoughby, Howard Manns
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429019692
ISBN (Print)9780367029395
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameAustralian English Reimagined


  • Australian English, history, postcolonial dialects

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