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Why do South Australians sound different

Why do South Australians sound different?

Have you ever heard an Aussie sounding a bit more posh compared to the average folk? They’re probably from Adelaide!

Growing up in the city, it’s one of the things I’ve been told when I visited other states like Melbourne and Sydney. 

Here, I list some possible explanations of why Adelaideans sound different from the rest of Australia. Keep in mind that these are only theories.

Possible Reasons for Adelaideans’ Different Accent

1. Our German and British Roots

1. Our German and British Roots

One of the possible reasons why Adelaideans sound different is the majority of the first foreign settlers in Adelaide were either German or British.

The British are one of the first settlers here during the 19th century. Along with their luggage, they’ve also brought their accents with them!

On the other hand, according to The German Club, Germans made up between 7% and 10% of the South Australian population before the First World War (1914)! 

The mix of both cultures could have led to integrating an accent unique to the state.

Fun fact: Queen Adelaide, to whom the city gets its name, is a German noble who was then married to British King William IV. She’s the perfect representation of our roots! 

2. Our History of Being Populated by Free Settlers

2. Our History of Being Populated by Free Settlers

In relation to the first possible reason, one thing that makes our city unique is that it was freely settled by non-convicts. The settlers maintained their way of speaking even on the new continent.

The people who occupied the city may have been from the middle to the upper class. Of course, class and accent have historically gone hand-in-hand

Why exactly we haven’t been influenced much by the rest of Australia remains a question. One thing’s for sure, though: our accent is here to stay.

3. What does an Adelaidean accent sound like?

You can tell that it’s an Adelaidean accent if the letter ‘A’ is pronounced as ‘ah.’ We apply this to words where ‘A’ is usually pronounced like ‘ant,’ such as ‘dance’ and ‘chance.’

In technical terms, we tend to pronounce the vowel ‘A’ as /aː/. 

Interestingly, some even say it sounds similar to a South African accent! 

Aside from this, we also tend to say the letter ‘L’ as a soft ‘W.’ This results in pronouncing the words’ hill,’ ‘milk,’ and ‘bill’ as ‘hiwl,’ ‘miwk,’ and ‘biwl.’

What are the 3 types of Australian accents?

According to research in 1965 by linguists Delbridge and Mitchell, Australia has three dominant accents. These are

  • Broad
  • Cultivated
  • General

What are broad Australian accents?

Broad accents are the ones which we most identify with how an Aussie should sound. Typically, these traits can be seen in

  • The vowel ‘I’ in words like ‘kite’ and ‘mine’ is pronounced as ‘oy’ (/ɔɪ/) similar to its pronunciation in ‘choice’ 
  • The vowel ‘o’ in words like ‘out’ and ‘mouth’ is pronounced as ‘eh-aw’ (/ɛɔ/)

A good demonstration of a broad accent can be seen in the video above.

Adelaideans are on the opposite end of the spectrum: the cultivated accent. 

What are cultivated Australian accents?

Cultivated accents are the ones sounding most British. Think Cate Blanchett or Samara Weaving (an Adelaide local!). 

Cultivated Aussie accents generally have the following:

  • Shorter vowels
  • Less nasality
  • Sharp ‘t’ pronunciation 

Above is a great video showcasing our local accent.

What are general Australian accents?

General Australian accents are a mix of cultivated and broad accents. It’s what the usual Australian you see on the street will talk like!

What are the most common South Australian slang words?

What are the most common South Australian slang words

We Adelaideans have some slang we’re fond of. Here are some of the most common ones, along with what they mean:

  • ‘Heaps good’ – It’s a variation for ‘very good.’
  • ‘Stobie pole’ – These concrete poles carry power and telephone lines. It’s the alternative to termite-resistant wood, as South Australia doesn’t have the latter.
  • ‘Butcher’ – Aside from referring to the handy slicer of all things meaty, it’s also a term for a small beer glass. It got its name from local pubs that workers would visit during afternoons for a quick refreshment.
  • ‘Croweater’ – It’s what someone from South Australia is usually called. The term was first used back in 1874, with its exact origin being unknown. 

While these words don’t necessarily require a translator to understand, it might still ring some tourists’ ear when they first hear it. 

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