Sydney Speaks Project

Sydney Speaks: Language variation and change in a diverse society

This project seeks to document and explore Australian English, as spoken in Australia’s largest and most ethnically and linguistically diverse city – Sydney. The title “Sydney Speaks” captures a key defining feature of the project: the data come from recorded conversations between Sydney siders, as they tell stories about their lives and experiences, their opinions and attitudes. This allows us to measure how their lived experiences impact their speech patterns.

Working within the framework of variationist sociolinguistics, we examine variation in phonetics, grammar and discourse, in an effort to answer questions of fundamental interest both to Australian English, and language variation and change more broadly, including:

  • How has Australian English as spoken in Sydney changed over the past 100 years?
  • Has the change in the ethnic diversity over that time period (and in particular, over the past 40 years) had any impact on the way Australian English is spoken?
  • What affects the way variation and change spread through society
      • Who are the initiators and who are the leaders in change?
      • How do social networks function in a modern metropolis?
      • What social factors are relevant to Sydney speech today, and over time (gender? class? region? ethnic identity?)

A better understanding of what kind of variation exists in Australian English, and of how and why Australian English has changed over time can help society be more accepting of speech variation and even help address prejudices based on ways of speaking.

 

People interested in working with, or contributing to Sydney Speaks should contact Catherine Travis.  

Funded by: ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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