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  1. Lone Vista

    Lone Vista Active Member

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    Writing Australian English dialogue

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Lone Vista, Dec 7, 2016.

    Wasn't sure if this belonged here or in Character development, but here goes:

    I've got a character who lives in her world's version of North America. Her parents are both from Australia (or rather, its equivalent) originally but almost all their kids were born and raised in Northamericaland, including this main character. They all have Australian accents to varying degrees, which tend to be thicker when at home or talking to each other.

    Not being Australian myself, I don't exactly know how to do this properly. I'd like to be able to incorporate the use of Australian English in their dialogue, but so far whenever I try it feels like I'm over compensating. Any suggestions for how I might go about broadening my knowledge of the dialect?
     
  2. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Try reading something from there or NZ. The Cleaner by Paul Cleave is set in NZ.
    I think it should be done with phrasing and words, then the accent mostly mentioned by others. Australia is know for a long A sound.
     
  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I see you're posting from Canada. Do you all get any Australian programing (TV) there? I watch quite a bit of Australian TV and their vocabulary is not too terribly different to ours. Yes, like anywhere, they have their accent that non-Australians tend to think of as homogenous, but really it's not and has quite a bit of regional variance. Not everyone's accent is as marked as Steve Irwin (may he rest in peace). What North Americans think of as "up-talking" is a much more common phenomenon there and of course there is the "broad A" (well known), and less well known to Americans is the habit of some Australians to replace the T in the middle of words with a D, rendering words like fourteen as fourdeen.

    But, I mean, how much of that can you keep going? And how important is it to the reader that you "Aussify" everything the Aussies say? Once you set that their accents are different, once the reader knows this through the context of the story and narrative, the reader should read their dialogue that way. You really shouldn't have to continue to force it.
     
  4. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I find a simple question mark does the trick? With every clause? Or sentence? When I write Australian?

    [Hoh, pig, snort]
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'd say go with the vocabulary more than the accent itself. There's no real sense to writing accents phonetically, as we don't write our own accents phonetically. But there are certainly Australian slang words you could throw in. The tendency to shorten a lot of their words (agro, arvo, bikkie, etc.), etc.
     
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  6. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    First, we use the Queen's English. That means we spell things correctly. Second, we don't abbreviate as much as people think. It depends where you're from. Slang and abbreviation is stronger in the country than the city, where communication is a bit more refined. Mate is commonly used for friends or friendly business acquaintances. Americanisms like sidewalk and cellphone slowly creep in but are not commonly used. It's footpath and mobile. Third, watch some Australian films that are NOT the silly outback quirky comedy, to get a better feeling of natural dialect. There are lots of common misconceptions when it comes to slang or delivery that these films tend to avoid. Some suggestions:

    Somersault,
    Look Both Ways,
    Animal Kingdom,
    The Babadook
    Red Hill
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    @Selbbin: I watch your TV programming when I can get my hands on it, and I have to say that - at least what I get in TV - your syntax and construction is a lot more like American English than British English.... to me, anyway. Never mind the odd bits of different vocabulary, but just the way you folks string a sentence together feels more like what I think of as natural (to me) than BrE. Especially in modern, contemporary settings like Please Like Me. The young people in that show sound very American to me, which is not to say you sound like us, but that we have similarities, together. :) Harder to tell in shows like A Place to Call Home where it's a period piece and deals with a very pommy (I believe the term goes) family. But it's hard to know how representative any of that is. American TV is completely slanted to a "flat midwestern" accent and isn't representative at all of the broad variations in accent across the country.
     
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  8. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I'd agree, especially because of the heavy consumption of American media by the urban young, many of whom are creating that content now. While the older folks were exposed to more British media on TV. But the flattening of American accents is similar to Aussie content. People in Melbourne and Sydney speak differently, with some very distinct differences. Ask one from each to say 'castle.' And ask someone from Melbourne what a schooner is and they'd probably say it's a type of ship.... or just look at you funny. But someone from Sydney would serve you a beer.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  9. Lone Vista

    Lone Vista Active Member

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    Many thanks! This has helped me narrow down what I think I need to do. I have never enjoyed the look of accents other than the writer's own being written phonetically, so it looks like what I need to do next is get the hang of the use of vocabulary. I haven't access to much in the way of Australian TV, but I'm sure I can find some things at the library and have a look through some podcasts.
     
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  10. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    To the OP.

    Why would children of Australians have an Australian accent if they were raised in America? Children usually pick up the accent of where they're from...case in point, my in-laws...one with a Southern, cockney-style accent, one pretty much RP...all the kids turned out with a thick Wolverhampton accent.
     
  11. Lone Vista

    Lone Vista Active Member

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    In this case, it's simply an affectation of most of the family members. (I know it's not something that always happens with kids whose families are originally from elsewhere.) They often see family who still live in Australia, the house is kind of its own environment, etc. etc. Besides which, not every kid's accent is noticeable to the same degree. The main character I'm working with has her own accent mostly subdued when out and about, subconsciously leaning into it more when she's with her family. Whereas her younger sibling barely has a noticeable one even at home, and her older sister who lives out of the house has a much more distinct one.

    Mostly though, it just felt right to go this way with this particular family.
     
  12. Dreamsoap

    Dreamsoap New Member

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    I am an Australian myself who moved to Canada and lost their accent, and also happen to be writing characters with various accents, including Australian. I honestly would not write it all phonetically, because with the way we stress sounds and have constant pitch changes, it's going to be incredibly weird to read and awkward to look at.
    The only time I'd write a word for Aussies phonetically to their accent is if it's specifically highly stressed one. You could take the word 'Australia' itself for example. Canadians will pronounce it properly as 'Aus-tra-lia'. Heavily accented Australians will slur it as ''straylia'.

    If I wrote it out for the accent of the outback, where I lived, you'd get things like this:
    "Ay, get ovAH heAH maYTE!"

    Since people are recommending films, stay far, far, away from the movie 'Australia'. Hugh Jackman and the aboriginal kid's accents were over stressed. Also the movie was terrible and had nothing to do with the outback/ Darwin.

    As far as slang goes, we used a heavy amount in the Northern Territory, but not all of it. I can look up a slang dictionary and be surprised at some of them. Common ones I'd always hear are:

    G'Day mate (used by baby boomer generation in formal and casual settings)
    Mate (Used by everyone of all ages in all settings)
    Hard yakka (hard work)
    Bloody Oath!
    Pollie/ Pollies (A politician)
    Bogan (Unhygienic slacker who doesn't work, spends most of his time drinking beer and being obnoxious)
    "She'll be right" (Expression that everything will be ok)
    Scrub-gin or Scrub-jin (Not sure on the spelling, but the 90's kids would use it to describe someone who lived out bush. It's slightly derogatory, but mostly used as a joke in regards to themselves.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    The same thing might happen in Sydney, Nova Scotia although we also have the Bluenose II, so it could go either way.

    When I read the Tomorrow series (John Marsden) I ran across a number of words—Australianisms— I didn't know. Some I was able to work out from context, but for others I had to go look them up. For instance, 'ute' (or perhaps it's 'yute'). That one had me head-scratching until I thought of looking it up online.

    But the series (and the follow-up: The Ellie Chronicles) seems a good source of Australian turns of phrase. Of course, I'm looking at it from the other side of the world, so you Aussies feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
     

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