The Australian accent is a beautiful thing. Well, it’s a beautiful thing to some. To others it can sound so drunken and drawn out that one communication expert actually believes Australia’s unique vocal tones are the result of an “alcoholic slur” developed by its early settlers, which sounds about right.
Dean Frenkel, a public speaking and communication lecturer at Melbourne’s Victoria University, has published an editorial piece in The Age, in which he says “drunken Aussie-speak” was formed generations ago and has been passed on through even the most sober locals.
While calling for Aussie schools to teach verbal expression and delivery, Mr Frenkel says “the Australian alphabet cocktail was spiked by alcohol”.
“Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns,” he says. “For the past two centuries, from generation to generation, drunken Aussie-speak continues to be taught by sober parents to their children.”
Mr Frenkel says the average Aussie speaks to just two thirds of their capacity, “With one third of our articulator muscles always sedentary as if lying on the couch; and that’s just concerning articulation.”
Maaaaaaate, that’s a big call! You sure you don’t want a beer?
Mr Frenkel says Australians can often leave out consonants like the ‘t’ in “impordant” and the ‘l’ in “Austraya”, while “lazily” transforming vowels into other vowels, like ‘a’ becoming ‘e’ in “stending” and ‘i’ becoming ‘oi’ in “noight”.
Here’s an example: “I’m stending up for Austraya even tho it’s noight toime, ’cause it’s impordant.” If you could read that without a hitch, you’re either drunk or Australian.
Old maaaaaate Mr Frenkel says “Aussie-speak developed in the early days of colonial settlement from a cocktail of English, Irish, Aboriginal and German” before alcohol “slipped into the mix”.
That said, he also thinks that because “articulation is a functional product of our neuro-muscular network, it is possible that our national speech impediment is a symptom of inferior brain functioning”, which sounds ridiculous and is “countered by a significant set of cerebral people who think brilliantly but express poorly”.
According to the Linguistics Department at Sydney’s Macquarie University, the flat and nasally Australian accent developed from a mix of dialects found in early settler colonies.
“The children in the new colony would have been exposed to a wide range of different dialects from all over England but mainly the south east, particularly from London,” the department says.
“They would have created the new dialect from elements present in the speech they heard around them in response to their need to express peer solidarity. Even when new settlers arrived, this new dialect of the children would have been strong enough to deflect the influence of new children.”
So, the Aussie accent could be a result of combining dialects or combining alcohol, but it’s probably just both.