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South Australian English is the collective name given to the varieties of English spoken in the Australian State of South Australia. As with the other regional varieties within Australian English, these have distinctive vocabularies. To a lesser degree there are also some differences in phonology (pronunciation).

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Macquarie Dictionary state that there are three localised, regional varieties of English in South Australia: Adelaide English, Eyre and Yorke Peninsula English and Northern South Australia English. While there are many commonalities, each has its own variations in vocabulary.[1]



While some of the words attributed to South Australians are used elsewhere in Australia, many genuine regional words are used throughout the state. Some of these are German in origin, reflecting the origins of many early settlers. Such was the concentration of German speakers in and around the Barossa Valley, it has been suggested they spoke their own dialect of German, known as "Barossa German". The influence of South Australia's German heritage is evidenced by the adoption into the dialect of certain German or German-influenced vocabulary. One such local word with German origins is "butcher", the name given to a 200 ml (7 fl.oz.) beer glass, which is believed to be derived from the German becher, meaning a cup or mug.[2]

Another uniquely South Australian word is "stobie pole", which is the pole used to support power and telephone lines. It was invented in South Australia by James Stobie in 1924.

Cornish miners represented another significant wave of early immigrants, and they contributed Cornish language words, such as wheal (mine), which is preserved in many place names.

South Australian dialects also preserve other British English usages which do not occur elsewhere in Australia: for example, farmers use reap and reaping, as well as "harvest" and "harvesting".


In terms of phonology, usage of /aː/ (the "long a") as opposed to /æ/ ("short a") in words like graph, chance, France, dance, demand, castle, grasp and contrast is far more common in South Australia than in other regions.[3] In some cases this is a sharp distinction. For example, a survey of pronunciation in different cities found that 86% of those surveyed in Adelaide pronounced graph with an /aː/, whereas 100% of those surveyed in Hobart and 70% of those surveyed in Melbourne used /æ/.

It is sometimes claimed that South Australians have a distinct regional accent. One way in which this is manifested is the phenomenon known as the "dark-l", such that the "l" is vocalised; for example, "milk" sounds like "miuwk" and "hill" sounds like "hiw".[4] A back allophone of /ʉː/, [ʊː] — pronouncing "pool" as a longer form of "pull" — is occasionally attributed purely to South Australians, but is widespread in other regions of Australia. In a similar vein, Cultivated Australian English accents, such as that of former foreign minister Alexander Downer, are mistakenly attributed to South Australians in general. However such speech patterns are a sociolect, and are used by some people in all parts of Australia.

See also


  1. ^ ABC Wordmap
  2. ^ ABC Radio National, Lingua Franca, 28/02/2004, "South Australian Words"
  3. ^ Crystal, D. (1995). Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Dorothy Jauncey, Bardi Grubs and Frog Cakes — South Australian Words, Oxford University Press (2004) ISBN 0-19-551770-9

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