Yes, I know about the Run Rebellion and all that

The distinctive Australian accent is the result of a “drunken slur” caused by the heavy drinking of the early settlers, according to a communication expert from the country.

But the problem with this idea is that early Australia wasn’t notably more boozy than other societies of the time.

If I were to look for a cause (and as ever, I’m entirely willing to pontificate on something I know nothing at all about) I’d look to the rural/urban split. It’s well known that urban accents are faster than rural (just compare Cockney with Dorset, Boston with Maine). Oz was a very rural society for the important developmental part of its history. For that first century or so it was a giant farm for the Empire.

4 thoughts on “Yes, I know about the Run Rebellion and all that”

  1. Incorrect, while we Australians tried to build a national identity around a notion of rugged rural existence, the truth of the matter was that Australian agriculture was overwhelmingly composed of non-labour intensive animal husbandry and pastoralism (look up the Selection Acts to see our big failed attempt to encourage close cropping and greater rural settlement). After the gold rush Australia was one of the most urbanised places on Earth with estimates that up to 75% of people lived in the colonial capitals.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    I read somewhere in the dim and distant past a tip for people trying to imitate the Aussie accent was that it was in part a consequence of Aussies trying to keep the back of their mouth close to keep flies out.

    It was probably bollocks but it amused me enough to stick in memory.

  3. And as Kiwi, I always thought is was the criminal influence, a bit of crim argot stretching the language.

    But there’s notable gradations in that accent (as in all accents), believe it or not there are corners of Melbourne where the average accent is only reservedly Australian (and not too far from a broad RP standard), whereas in the rougher parts of Sydney, it can be near incomprehensible and in some ways, barely english at all.

  4. I’ve been asked by Australians what state I was from, and I’m a Kiwi with a broad Kiwi accent. A great many city Australians don’t sound significantly different from city New Zealanders.

    (It used to annoy many of them that Julia Gillard spoke with such a strong accent, because it had to be faked — like Mick Jagger’s ridiculous accent trying to look working class.)

    And Mabuse is right — Australia has been largely urban basically from the start.

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