The Language of Australian Literature


To the linguist, Australian English is a dialect: that is, a regional variety of English with its own peculiarities of pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax. These peculiarities make Australian English distinctive from Standard English and from the other regional dialects (Canadian, American and New Zealand English, for example). But they constitute a very small proportion of our speech, and even less of our written language. This situation is clearest where vocabulary is concerned: even in its colloquial form, Australian English consists overwhelmingly of words and phrases which it shares with Standard English. The words which make it distinctive, chiefly terms for features of our natural environment, are a very small percentage of the total. Linguists, naturally, give much more attention to them because they are distinctive; as Dr Ramson has said: 'No one in his right mind would want to rewrite the Oxford English Dictionary, duplicating as much of its material as has a history of usage in . . . Australian.'

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Published 1 June 1967 in Volume 3 No. 1. Subjects: Australian English, Language.

Cite as: Johnston, Grahame. ‘The Language of Australian Literature.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, 1967, doi: 10.20314/als.086be434d2.