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Gillard’s intellect and Blanchett’s voice?

Aidan Wilson writes:

File photo: Julia Gillard (AAP: Dave Hunt)

We wouldn’t be a very good Crikey blog if we didn’t comment on Julia Gillard’s ascension to the rank of Prime Minister – so it’s lucky for us that the political gods the NSW Labor Party’s Right-wing faction have gifted us with a new PM whose voice serves as a linguistic discussion point.

Despite my thoughts that it’d be a hot topic, I’ve only found a few snippets of reports relating to the new Prime Minister’s accent. One of which is an article from 2009 in which it was claimed that Julia Gillard was asked by American school kids  – apparently baffled by her accent – whether they speak English in Australia. There are also a couple of comments on Peter Hartcher’s recent opinion piece, that deride her ‘horrible’ voice. One commenter pleads with her to ‘drop the manufactured Aussie accent’, adding that ‘it’s excruciating’.

By far the most in-depth coverage of Gillard’s accent was an interview on Newsradio last Friday morning with Lucy Cornell, director of Voice Coach, an aptly named voice coaching firm in Sydney. The full recording of the interview is here (if you can be bothered listening to the uninspired musings of Cornell about gender politics and her gushing over the wonderful Australian accent). The quotes below are from my own transcription. So if it takes you a couple of attempts to read some of the clunky sentences, just imagine a giant (sic) after the whole thing.

Interviewer: So you’d encourage Julia Gillard to show us more of her, of her warmth, her humanity, her personality through her voice? How do you do that?

Lucy Cornell: Well that’s technical, literally what’s going on for her is that she – I won’t get too technical on you – is that not much breath is going into her body, which – a lot of people don’t breathe very much these days, so for her if there’s no breath going in she can’t tap into her natural resonance. So what that means is you miss out on the ring, you miss out on the deeper notes of her voice and what you get is mostly her sharp intellect, you know and the muscling of sounds rather than the – I was talking to someone yesterday saying that imagine if you had Julia Gillard’s intellect and Cate Blanchett’s voice underneath that. That would be quite powerful.

Doesn’t sound too technical to me.

The interview goes on to discuss whether Gillard has had any voice coaching, and if not, whether she should have any.

Interviewer: I know that Julia Gillard has said that she’s never had any voice coaching and that probably people would know that by listening to her; she’s often joked about that. Do you think she’d benefit from it, do you think she should do it or do you think that would then would open her up to more criticism that she’s succumbed to the pressure and the superficiality of it all?

Lucy Cornell: Yeah, it’s a tough gig being a politician because you are absolutely in the public’s eye, you’re scrutinised by that and also you’re open to if you do reveal yourself then the fear is that you’re open to immediate criticism by the opposition, and you’re also playing all the policies and the agendas of the people behind you, so it’s a really tough gig to be brave enough to reveal yourself in your voice. I think she can certainly do with warming into her voice more but whether she – it’s a really tough, tough call to do that.

There are a number of points to consider in this whole issue. The first is whether Gillard’s accent is put on; whether she has had coaching to sound more Australian. I used to think it was genuine, but now I can’t tell. The few colleagues I’ve spoken to about this think that it’s completely fake. They argue that since she was born in South Wales and raised in Adelaide, she must feel the need to up the Australianness to fit into parliament. This could be true to some degree, but I still think it would take quite some linguistic prowess to maintain a fake accent for such a prolonged period.

A broader issue brought up in this is that of politicians being judged by their accents. US-born NSW Premier Kristina Keneally copped a fair amount of flak for sounding increasingly Australian when she was elected elevated to the job, and Barack Obama was widely carpeted for blacking it up when addressing predominantly black audiences but keeping it white otherwise. A quick Google search finds a blog entry containing the following:

There is a black dialect. Barack Obama deliberately employs it sometimes when talking to black audiences. He almost never employs it when speaking to white audiences. If Barack Obama spoke to white audiences with a negro dialect, he would not be elected president of the United States.

That’s the key issue here: To what extent does one’s accent affect their political chances. Are these politicians shifting the way they speak as a function of their audience? Probably – but it’s hard to tell the difference between deliberate shifts in accent, and natural, subconscious variation in one’s own speech depending on the audience – a phenomenon linguists call accommodation.

If it is deliberate – and this brings me to the next point – then it’s symptomatic of a political reality in which individuals are elected primarily on the basis of their personality, voice and any other factors as opposed to a party being elected on the basis of policy. I don’t think Gillard, or anyone for that matter, should have to do anything to change their accent just because a couple of people think it’s too coarse or ‘excruciating’. Surely the only measure of a politician’s worth is their policies (in an ideal world). Any other factors then, are totally irrelevant – and in this I include gender, hair colour, marital status, sexual orientation, religion or even one’s abilities in cricket (although ripping on John Howard’s bowling action sure was fun, wasn’t it?).

Lastly, Gillard’s accent isn’t especially extraordinary. I haven’t exactly done a phonetic analysis, but a quick review of some key phrases tells me that she sits somewhere at the broader end of general, while many politicians (and most female politicians) are closer to the cultivated side. If you don’t what I mean when I use terms like ‘broad’, ‘general’ and ‘cultivated’, don’t worry – these are terms that were used very early to describe the sociolects of Sydney (see Wikipedia for a brief explanation). More recently, research has shown that the situation is more complicated. Instead, we all use features of all three sociolects, but in varying measures. So Gillard simply uses broad features more frequently than other females.

All in all, the paucity of comments in the mainstream media on Julia Gillard’s accent – which cause some difficulties in researching for this post – is encouraging; clearly the public care less about her voice than her politics. Somewhat less encouraging was this opinion piece in Tuesday’s Herald by Bettina Arndt about her lifestyle choices.

And before anyone mentions it, I’m fully aware of the irony of claiming Gillard’s accent as a non-issue yet at the same time publishing over 1000 words about it.


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  • 1
    Holden Back
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    You seem to posit that we all speak with the same accent all the time, and that this is somehow ‘genuine’. We don’t, and the politicians’ problem is that there is an unrealistic expectation that they should sound the same on all public occasions. Furthermore as Kev’s shaking of the sauce bottle showed, authenticity is in the ears of the beholder.

    As a university-educated Victorian with one working-class parent from South Australia her accent sounds fairly genuine to me. Possibly skewed towards displaying the working-class background, rather than hiding it, as would have been usual in the past for someone with a law degree. I bet she can do a wicked ‘Prue and Trude’ on occasion.

    Try an analysis of Bob Hawke’s many accents, and ability to leap classes in a single vowel, if you want real complexity.

  • 2
    Martin C. Jones
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Also worth checking out for an exploration of ‘broad’, ‘general’, and ‘cultivated’ accents — and, indeed, the Australian accent generally — is John Clarke’s 2007 ABC documentary, “The Sound of Aus”.

    (Yes, that’s the same Kiwi satirist John Clarke who assidiously refrains from mimicking anybody’s voice in his 7:30 Report sketches.)

  • 3
    Charles Richardson
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    “… just imagine a giant (sic) after the whole thing.” No no no! What you mean is, “just imagine a giant ‘(sic)’ after the whole thing.” Here am I, obediently trying to imagine a giant after the whole thing. But that doesn’t help at all! Hey, I think, he must really mean “giant”, he put “(sic)” after it.

  • 4
    Joe Rossi of RPData
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t mind her accent so much, I just find the tone very disturbing. The way it drones in a monotone while she draws out every sentance I find very frustrating to a point that I have to change channel whenever she is being interviewed.

  • 5
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Holden, I totally agree. This is what I meant when I referred to accommodation. I didn’t quite say how pervasive it is; we all have a huge range of variation that our speech goes through. Getting really specific, the areas in the mouth that correlate to particular vowels (the majority of the variation in one’s speech is in the vowels) are not focused points, but in fact quite large areas that overlap.

    Now this is getting technical. Here’s an example of a vowel chart. Notice it places vowels at definite points:

    But when you actually map the frequencies of vowels, what you get are not points, but regions in which the vowel may occur:

    So we all have a huge amount of variation built into the way we speak and no, there isn’t a single accent that any individual uses all the time (try talking to a magistrate the same way you order a pint and see how far it gets you).

    Having said all that, there’s still clearly room for affecting your vowels (even if it just means using particular vowels more often than you usually would).

    Sorry Charles… I thought both parentheses and quotes would be a bit clunky. But since it put you off, I’ll reconsider it.

  • 6
    Holden Back
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Performance is all, and influenced by so many things. John Elliot’s accent is another plum pudding of class and place.

    The vocal training would probably be a good idea for someone who is expected to speak so much, but as you say, it would be a difficult thing to admit to. It would relax her upper body and place much less strain on her throat, so make her a happier person.

  • 7
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Julia Gillards accent is loathesome.
    Its quite possible to speak English without the really flat Ostraylian accent
    or the upperclass EEENGleesh accent.
    viz our Cate, or Mr Rush, even the people in the popular Rafters.
    If her brain matches her accent she is in trouble.
    I’m pleased to see so many others have expressed the same disappointment.

  • 8
    Robert Bruce
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Fake accents seem to be a speciality of the Labor side of politics – Joan Kirner and Marn Fersn are classic examples. Ranga’s is not too bad. But really what this has to do with whether she is fit for the job is another matter. Alexander Downer has a perfectly natural and credible plummy accent and he is a complete f…wit.

  • 9
    Stuart Hamilton
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    The most recent issue of the Murdoch-owned (London) Sunday Times had this choice headline on Julia Gillard, dripping with pommie condescension: “Mad Max Fishwife in Love with Power”. The Mad Max reference is to the Altona petrochemical plant used as a Mad Max locale; the fishwife reference probably originates in the much quoted comment from 2002 by Matt Price: “The cheese-grater voice of a Footscray fishwife”.

  • 10
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    She does sound like 20,000 Vuvuzela’s when she speaks, Obama will need an interpreter and will be deciphering what she says for weeks after.

  • 11
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Gillard’s accent strikes me as overly broad and manufactured. The reason I say that is because it is so noticeable … to the point of distraction.

    The twang of her accent sounds over compensatory to me. Perhaps it’s something she developed to fit in with her union buddies.

    The speech she gave after toppling Rudd was very difficult to listen to because her pacing was so slow and deliberate, emphasizing the final consonants like nobody other than an elocution teacher does.

    I swear that Gillard is turning into Margaret Thatcher.

  • 12
    Cynthia Crabapple
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s not the accent that should worry Lady Macbeth. It’s the blood on her hands.

    Shame Labor Shame

  • 13
    Andrew Kensy
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Love the technical stuff, Aidan. And I’m still looking for an enormous pile of (sic) somewhere on the page.

  • 14
    Frank Campbell
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    “They argue that since she was born in southern Wales and raised in Adelaide, she must feel the need to up the Australianness to fit into parliament”

    It’s South Wales, not “southern Wales”. Hence New South Wales. (The Gillard house backed onto my family’s house, my mother informs me. We were also 10 quid non-poms.)

    [AW: Thanks. Edited.]

    She emigrated at the age of 3 or 4, and grew up in Ordinary (non-Wong/Downer) Adlade.

    None of you mention John Clark’s savage expozay of Gillard’s language last nite on the 7.30 Report. Check it out. He stuck to pace and words, not her bizarre chook-like head movements and oscillating side-to-side hand and body shifts. Laurie Oakes rightly slammed Rudd for “spewing verbal sludge”- Gillard is worse. A stiff, mannered and transparently artificial delivery of cliches and platitudes. Her voice has also been worked over by a coach for sure- when Price referred to her cheese-grater voice in 2002 it was a damned sight worse- but it is still a nasal drone. Metronomically memerising.

    She’s better lose the election for her own sake because sooner or later someone will crack-and assassinate her. The perp will get a suspended sentence on grounds of provocation.

    Speaking of grounds, Gillard twice referred to minerals “in our grounds”. Did she mean coffee dregs? Or the grounds of the Lodge? Just pig-ignorance.

    Gillard’s accent is not fake. It’s broad, yes, but Unley High does that to you. Her voice though is her own awful affliction. Upper class Adelaide education would have made Gillard sound like Alexander Downer and Penny Wong: “Ah” for “our”.

    And where does this notion that Gillard is a great intellect come from? Her powers of expression are severely limited. The conveyor-belt of ALP factional career has taught her nothing but rat-cunning. Student politics, lawyer, MP. Never mind the quality, feel the power.

  • 15
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Aiden Aidan, would you say that Gillard’s accent has any traces of a South Australian accent in it? I haven’t heard a thing to indicate she grew up in SA. Sure, she’s working class and therefore doesn’t have the Wong/Stott Despoja accent, but to me there doesn’t seem to be any SA there at all.

    I’ve got a few friends around the same age as Gillard who grew up in working class South Australian families then moved to Melbourne in adulthood. You can clearly pick up traces of SA in their accents. This was what made me wonder about her.

    Although there’s nothing wrong with her deliberately changing the accent — we all do it, as Holden Back says.

  • 16
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    There is one clear trace of a working class Adelaide accent, and that’s L-vocalisation. I listened to a recording from prior to the 2007 election and it was pretty clear, in all the places where you’d expect it. In fact I’m actually watching the ABC news right now and just heard it again.

    L-vocalisation is what happens when an ‘l’ sound occurs after a vowel and before another consonant (technically called non-prevocalic, which is just Latin for ‘not before a vowel’). For example, if you pronounce the ‘l’ in ‘milk’, or if you feel the tip of your tongue touching the top of your mouth just before the ‘k’, then you don’t vocalise your Ls. If however, it sounds more like ‘miwk’, with almost a ‘w’ sound, then it’s vocalised.

    Listen to Gillard say words like ‘will’, ‘we’ll’, ‘people’, ‘hospital’ and so forth; her speeches are littered with them. This is a common feature of working class Adelaide accents, for both males and females of all ages. It’s less common for middle class Adelaide accents, but it’s still there.

    Also, this isn’t restricted to Adelaide, but it is more common in Adelaide than elsewhere. The unremarkable judge in Masterchef (you know, not Preston or the short one who karate chops his hand all the time – the other one) also does this, which led me to think he was from Adelaide, but he’s actually from Melbourne.

  • 17
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    If however, it sounds more like ‘miwk’, with almost a ‘w’ sound, then it’s vocalised.

    I hear that too often these days. Building is ‘boo-ding’, millionaire is ‘mee-yonaire’ (Eddie McGuire), four wheel drive is ‘four woo drive’, etc.

    And while I’m have a hate session, what happened to ‘no’? Female reporters insist on saying ‘noy’.

  • 18
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the explanation.

    Touchy much about the spelling of your name?

  • 19
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Touchy much about the spelling of your name?

    Actually, not really. But once in a while you just gots ta nip it in the bud!

  • 20
    Roger Clifton
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Aidan, thank you for giving us the vowel charts! It is the sort of technical sharing that gives us something to chew over – to study and learn from. (URLs pls). More of it from every learned author!

    The word “broad” adequately describes the accommodation shift used by Bob Hawke, Cocky Calwell, Doc Evatt, Billy Hughes etc. So what’s with this “working class” sneer that is so freely thrown around here? If an Australian has never been paid for using a broom, s/he should never be awarded a university degree.

    Could it be that this blog is infested by closet Poms, dragging class malice into a speech useage that is more remarkable for its uniformity than its variation? Shame on you – go join the ABC!

  • 21
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    How on earth is it possible that people actually think she is faking Australian accent? She’s been here since she was 5 years old, any fool would know that you naturally acquire the local accent where you grow up at the young age.

    But I wonder why she has to sound so monotonous and overly measured, is that a masculine trait of a leader that people say females have to adopt to get ahead?

  • 22
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I would have thought Bob Hawke had the broadest Australian accent of any Prime Minister in our history. He got away with it because he used a lot of BIG words!!!

  • 23
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I read somewhere that Bob Hawke sounded much more Pommish when he went to Cambridge and only reverted to Australian accent and became broader when he ran for government or the ACTU.

  • 24
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I read somewhere that Bob Hawke sounded much more Pommish when he went to Cambridge

    I could believe that.

    I think my favourite example of that sort of thing was Molly Meldrum interviewing Prince Charles on Countdown in 1977. Apart from flubbing his lines, he put on the most ridiculous “upper class” accent imaginable.

  • 25
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    HA HA, that’s hilarious, I can’t imagine Molly sounding upper class. But may be if he had spent the night with Elton then it explain the sound…sorry my mind is in the gutter

  • 26
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s mostly a matter of diphthongs. And consonants. And some other things.

    A study of Australian dialects of necessity requires looking at English dialects, as referenced in the wikipedia article linked above. The ‘broad’ Australian accent by and large is the ‘uneducated’ Cockney accent of the original convicts and Redcoats who populated Australia in Georgian times. There is a more ‘educated’ home counties accent brought by further waves of settlers, and many Australians have to settle on a compromise between the two, although many educated Australians sound little different from some dialectical parts of the home counties, lacking the Cockney diphthongs, idioms, nasalation, abbreviations, rhyming slang and diminutives which have also pretty well characterised the broad Australian accent and manner of speaking. So-called ‘Estuary English’ of the wider Thames estuary area doesn’t really come into the picture, except for its Cockney component, possibly diverging in the 18th and 19th centuries from the English spoken in the southern hemisphere colonies — Tony Blair frequently adopted estuary English when talking to his subjects for effect, seen as a badge of poor education and worker solidarity. Or ‘being common’ as my grandmother would say.

    The English language itself is split more broadly into ‘rhotic’ and ‘non-rhotic’ dialects where home county English increasingly elided over ‘r’s whereas they have been retained in Scots, Irish English (and hence American), and West Country dialects, from original old Germanic sources and pronunciations. In this sense, American English is actually more conservative of Old English than is the southern English dialect currently held to be ‘correct’ and defining English pronunciation. There have been various other vowel and consonant shifts resulting in the phonetic mismatch between our (archaic) spellings and current pronunciations, which once upon a time used to agree — spellings were increasingly fixed with the advent of the printing press. The various English dialects also differ largely due to the original ethnic constitutions of their areas and the ‘five kingdoms’, being Britons, Anglo-Saxon in the centre and south, Scandinavian in the north-east, original Gaelic on the periphery, Norman French everywhere, and so on. How anyone understood anyone else is a mystery.

    So, ironically, Julia Gillard could possibly best be understood in the East End, rather than in her homeland of south Wales — which is a far more melodic version of English adopted by the previously Gaelic-speaking locals largely stemming from the Norman annexation of Wales.

  • 27
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I think she speaks beautifully

  • 28
    Holden Back
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    @Sean, You may have given a good genealogy of the Unley High component.

    Our generalisations about accent are just that. I have friends who have two boys eight and six, who moved from the US to New Zealand two years ago. The older boy has acclimatised his accent with some Niu Zilland veels, despite having gone to school in the US. The younger boy maintains the educated US acccent of his mother unadulterated.

  • 29
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Aidan, I really have to take issue with your characterization of the L-vocalisation as being an Adelaide trait. I was born and bred in Adelaide, but I now live in Melbourne. The L-vocalisation that you talk of is a huge part of the distinctive Melbourne accent, and really not an Adelaide thing at all. We Adelaidians have many quirks, but this is not one of them.

    Next time you talk to someone from Melbourne, ask them to pronounce the name of their home city, 9 times out of ten they will replace the “el” with the distinctive “aw”. Amongst my South Australian friends we call this the Mawbourne accent. You prove this yourself by mentioning George from Masterchef, a Melbourner, surely one of the best examples of this accent you could find, with his “awlegant (elegant) and awlements (elements). But he is not alone, Eddie -who wants to be a miwyonaire!- Macguire is another good example of a strong Mawbourne accent on TV .

    There aren’t a lot of big differences between the Adelaide and Melbourne accents, but this is one of them, and as always Adelaide gets tarred with the Mawbourne brush.

  • 30
    Graeme Harrison
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Great discussion… All insightful.
    But I agree that it is her mono-tone and ‘stick to the catch-phrase’ delivery that is more disturbing.
    Rudd at least said what he thought…. even if he got caught up in bureaucractic jargon sometimes. He over-used “working families” but it wasn’t dog-whistling. Now, we’ll be “going forward together”… till we all beg to get off that phrase.
    And because she’s driven by power and polls (not vision like Rudd), we’ll see that she will compete toe-to-toe with Abbott on dog-whistles, such as the ‘race to the bottom’ over how best to lock up boat people.

  • 31
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    @holden Back:

    The older boy has acclimatised his accent with some Niu Zilland veels, despite having gone to school in the US. The younger boy maintains the educated US acccent of his mother unadulterated.

    Which is a good example of how people do, in fact, adjust their accents to suit situations.

    And I say Gillard adjusts hers, too.

  • 32
    Holden Back
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    @ Socratease, as do we all, my original point. It’s unpredictable who and when and which elements remain or are emphasised, or even heard correctly. My father, from Whyalla, has a well-modulated, but distinctly South Australian general accent. He spent years in the upper echelons of a large commercial bank, but cannot imitate a real patrician Australian accent to save himself. Put him in a cattle sale or at the footy, and he can do broad with the best of them.

    @MartyC it’s Mal-bin, surely, just like it’s John Al-ee-ot.

  • 33
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    MartyC, I don’t mean to imply that L-vocalisation is a characteristic unique to Adelaide, but many linguists have casually observed (though I don’t think anyone’s studied it yet) that it appears to be pretty much ubiquitous among the Adelaide working class (or those who associate themselves with the working class, more accurately), whereas elsewhere, such as Melbourne, it’s still there but is much less common – by which I mean something like 70% of working class people do it as opposed to Adelaide’s 95% (numbers just concocted).

    And as for the ‘e’ moving to ‘a’ (phonetically /ɛ/ going to /æ/, but only before /l/, like ‘Melbourne’ -> ‘Malbourne’, ‘celery’ -> ‘salary’), this is something that is more restricted to Melbourne, and I think it’s restricted to people under about 50, but I can’t be sure.

    I think I was referring to Gary from Masterchef. Correct me if I’m wrong, but George is “the short one who karate chops his hand all the time”, right? George does this beautifully; there’s a masterclass in which he was using lots of gelatin (jalatin/jally). Gary on the other hand, doesn’t do this much, but he does plenty of L-vocalising (in fact they both do), which, in conjunction with the fact that he doesn’t lower his epsilon (that’s the vowel change I’m talking about), led me to (erroneously) think he was from Adelaide.

    Take issue if you want, but L-vocalisation certainly is a typical trait of the average Adelaidian.

  • 34
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Fair point Aiden, I’ll have to concede to your experience in these matters. Those percentages seem arbitrary to me, perhaps I just talk to the wrong people. I’ll admit that I would have never picked Gillard as having a South Australian background before reading about it, so my ear isn’t exactly expert.

    I’m pretty certain that Gary from master chef is English, with an English accent. George is the only one on that show with any aussie twang.

  • 35
    Holden Back
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Aidan, with you on the ‘dark L’- schoow, poow, miwk, etc. as a South Australian marker. Even the patrician Adelaide accent has a tinge of this on the strength of Alexander Darner’s tones.

  • 36
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    The only thing that I notice as a particularly Adeladian accent marker is roof sounding closer to “ruff”, and room closer to “rum”.

  • 37
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Surely the P.M. is an incarnation of Mabel from Dad & Dave. It has to be her.

  • 38
    Roberto Tedesco
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Just as well that Joolz left the class-ridden UK to land up in classless Australia. Hilarious stuff.

  • 39
    Stephen Trowell
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I think that most of us who move among locations do it. That is change our accents to suit our surroundings. And for the most part I think it is a subconscious manifestation of the desire and need to fit in. So, talking to people in the village I grew up in, in Northern England, I revert to a Cheshire accent. In the British Home Counties I am a little “far back” and in Australia many people cannot tell I am a pom at all. I vividly recall my mother on the phone to her mother slipping into a broad Lancashire accent. At least it was broad to my ears. That said, I am sure we all have the ability to ham it up a bit further, again to fit in. We don’t want to appear condescending on the one hand or common on the other. This habit reflects natural human adaptability and I do not accept that it is either hypocritical or deceptive.

    Politicians are noticed doing it because their speech is recorded.

  • 40
    Gratton Wilson
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The only surprise that American children should ask Ms Gillard if Australians spoke English is that they realise that they themselves speak English. Many years ago on a visit to the USA, an American adult complimented me on my ability to speak American so well and asked if I had studied it at school.

  • 41
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Nicolino, your comment just reminded me that in the original interview, Lucy Cornell mentions that she heard Julia Gillard compared to Kath Day-Knight from Kath & Kim.

  • 42
    Bruce Wilson
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Marty C is conflating the S.A. L-vocalisation with the Victorian short e-to-a transformation, which are unrelated. To distinguish:

    • get at a South Australian to describe the cockles and mussels near a local rock pool.
    • get a Victorian to tell you about the famous bushranger and where he was hanged.

    Like the New Zealand accent, these changes have spread through all socioeconomic classes over the last 40 or more years.

    They are probably more obvious to an accentually neutral observer (eg a New South Welshman).

  • 43
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    @Grattan Wilson:

    Many years ago on a visit to the USA, an American adult complimented me on my ability to speak American

    It’s not uncommon. I get this quite often in phone conversations with Americans. The insularity of many Americans can be astounding. They consider their language as “American” and that we speak “Australian”.

    As with “British”, the term “English” is sometimes used pejoratively by Americans. I’ve noticed recently how David Letterman goes out of his way to say British Petroleum, rather than BP, every time he refers to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • 44
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


    Surely the P.M. is an incarnation of Mabel from Dad & Dave. It has to be her.

    Yes, that’s her, and ironically she’s wooing (not ruing) a Rudd!

  • 45
    Holden Back
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    No note yet of the ‘darnce’/ ‘dance’ shift, another marker between colonies.

  • 46
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    What bugs me is ‘plarnt’ for plant.

  • 47
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    What bugs me is ‘plarnt’ for plant.

    That’s the Adelaide influence, which Holden Back mentioned.

    I pronounce it that way, FWIW. (Victorian all my life, but I seem to have collected my grandfather’s Adelaide accent.)

  • 48
    Holden Back
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Socratease, it’s not a class marker in the South Australian context, it’s some hangover of the ethnic make-up of the colony. There are hundreds of these sorts little points in pronunciation, and they change all the time.

    Carstlemaine/Casslemaine? NSW/Vic split.
    Aitch/Haitch? What Barry Humphries refers to as the Hibernian solecism – ie. meant you were a Catholic if you said haitch when he was growing up. (I’d bet Chapel bred Julia says haitch, somehow)

  • 49
    Holden Back
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Now ‘fwiw’ sounds like someone channelling Lilli Von Shtupp trying to say ‘frill’ in a South Australian accent.

  • 50
    zut alors
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s clear to my ear that Julia Gillard’s accent is genuine… and that she’s from Adelaide. Born and bred there myself, her pronunciation is easy to pick.

    On ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ Gillard declared she left Wales at the age of 4 therefore there were several formative years remaining in which her speech was influenced by integrating with Adelaidians. The cut-off point tends to be around 10 years of age.

    Unley High is situated in an area proximate to a mix of suburbs eg: Parkside in the 60s and 70s was predominantly unrenovated workers’ cottages, Malvern was more affluent with treelined streets and large villas. Depending in exactly which suburb she lived and how much time she spent with the neighbourhood kids, her accent could have been either working class Strine or a plummier Adelaide version of Strine.

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