News & Events

See below for updates on the project, including past and upcoming events, and other news.

Click here to see more of Sydney Speaks in action.


Seminar on ‘Ethnicity and social class in a modern metropolis’ at the Sydney Centre for Language Research, 13 August 2021

Abralin ao Vivo 2021, Ethnolectal variation in real time


In July 2021 Catherine Travis presented on ethnolectal variation in real time as part of the Abralin ao Vivo – Linguists Online series. Find the video here.

Abralin ao Vivo 2020, Language variation and change - Australia


Sydney Speaks is featured in Abralin ao Vivo – Linguists Online, in a panel on Language Variation and Change in Australia (8 July 2020), hosted by Celeste Rodriguez Louro, with presentations by Catherine Travis, James Walker, Gerry Docherty, John Mansfield and Celeste Rodriguez Louro, and with Ksenia Gnevsheva managing the chat. You can watch the session here.

Video: Meet Catherine Travis

Catherine Travis talks about the Sydney Speaks project in February 2019, as part of the CoEDL CI of the Week series


Sydney Speaks presents three papers at ALS, at Macquarie University in December 2019

Elena Sheard, Catherine Travis & James Grama “Vowel change over the lifespan in Australian English: Sydney speaks forty years on”

Benjamin Purser, Catherine Travis & James Grama “Social class in Australia: Constructing meaningful grouping for real time vowel analysis”

James Grama, Ksenia Gnevsheva, Jennifer Hay, James Brand, Simon Gonzalez, Debbie Loakes, Gerry Docherty, Elena Sheard, Paul Foulkes, Chloé Diskin, Katie Drager, James Walker and Catherine Travis (Canberra Corpus Collective) “Just a word: Sound change at the level of the word across dialects”


The Canberra Corpus Collective

Catherine Travis, Ksenia Gnevsheva, James Grama and Simón González organised a sociophonetics workshop 16-19 July 2019, to explore questions related to frequency, grammatical words and vowel realisation. The workshop included papers by five invited speakers (Jen Hay, Gerry Docherty and Paul Foulkes, James Walker, Katie Drager), followed by intensive afternoon hands-on workshops on sociophonetic variation in varieties of English across the globe.


Ethnolectal variation in Australian English diphthongs

In July, Sydney Speaks presented papers at the International Conference on Language Variation in Europe, ICLaVE|10 (Leeuwarden, Holland) and the International Conference on Historical Linguistics, ICHL24 (ANU)  exploring the role of ethnicity in language change in diphthongs in Australian English. They find little evidence for ethnolectal variation, but rather that Chinese Australians are ahead of an ongoing change away from broad pronunciations, associated with the high socioeconomic status of this group.



CoEDL Seminar, ANU, 24 May 2019

The Sydney Speaks team presents on the role of ethnic minorities in language change, with a focus on diphthongs in Sydney English from the 1970s to today. See a media release on this work here


2018-2019 Summer Scholars

Caroline Cheng (UNSW) and Renate Plehwe (Monash University) spent 2 months as Summer Research Scholars working on the project, looking at modals of obligation (e.g. have to stop and think) in real and apparent time. They examined the speech of Sydney siders born as early as 1890 up to 1990, and observed a rapidly changing modal system over this time. While some changes parallel those in other varieties of English, such as a rise in have to and a decrease in must over time (also seen in the UK and Canada) others do not, such as an increase in need to, that has not been reported elsewhere. This suggests that while Australian English participates in some trends evident in global English, it is not wholly constrained by those global trends.

SST 2018 - 17th Speech Science and Technology Conference, Sydney

James Grama presented a poster examining changes in the short-front vowel shift from the 1970s to today, co-authored with Simón González and Catherine Travis. The poster can be found here.

And Simón González gave a presentation co-authored with Catherine Travis, James Grama, Danielle Barth and Sunkulp Ananthanarayan titled ‘Recursive forced alignment: A test on a minority language’. This paper has been published in the SST proceedings, and can be accessed here.




 13th High Desert Linguistic Society Conference 

Catherine Travis presented a paper co-authored with James Grama and Simón González on 'Ethnolectal variation ov(er) time: Word-final (er) in Australian English’ at the 13th High Desert Linguistic Society Conference, University of New Mexico (9 November 2018). In the paper, they explore the role of ethnic groups in change over time, and find that 1970s Greek Australians led lengthening of word-final (er) in Intonation Unit final position (e.g. I can’t remember), and that this change has been adopted today by Anglo, Italian and Chinese Australians.



New Ways of Analyzing Variation 47 

Danielle Barth and Sunkulp Ananthanarayan presented work in collaboration with Simón Gonzalez, James Grama and Catherine Travis at NWAV47 (New Ways of Analyzing Variation 47, New York University, 19 October 2018). The presentation outlines the results from applying a recursive algorithm to forced alignment of a minority language of Papua New Guinea—Matukar Panau, and the paper it is based on can be found here (from the proceedings for the 17th Speech Science and Technology Conference). 


Centre of Language Sciences at Macquarie University 

Sydney Speaks presenting on forced alignment at the Centre of Language Sciences at Macquarie University in September 2018, including a seminar by James, Simón and Catherine titled ‘Expanding the study of linguistic variation through forced-alignment’, and a hands-on workshop delivered by Simón on and James on the Montreal Forced-Aligner.


2nd Workshop on Sociophonetic Variability in the English Varieties of Australia (SocioPhonAus2)

Catherine Travis, James Grama and Simón González attended the Second Workshop on Sociophonetic Variability in the English Varieties of Australia (SocioPhonAus2) in Brisbane from the 16th-17th of July 2018. The Sydney Speaks team presented a talk titled ‘Insights from spontaneous speech for the characterisation of vocalic change over time in Sydney’, in which they applied Generalised Additive Mixed Models to analyse changes in diphthongs in the speech of Anglo females from the 1970s to today. Simón also presented (with Gerry Docherty) on the application of forced alignment to vocalic variation.

Photo: Jen Nycz


Sociolinguistics Symposium 22

James Grama presented a Sydney Speaks paper at Sociolinguistics Symposium 22, as part of a workshop on ‘Ethnolectal research across the globe’ (June 2018). The study of word-final (er) (as in teacher, remember) found that it has lengthened over time in Intonation-Unit-final position. And while in the 1970s, there was ethnolectal variation (with Greeks possibly having led in this lengthening), today, different ethnic groups pattern similarly.


Linguistic Stereotyping and Discrimination

Catherine Travis gave a presentation at a symposium 'Exploring the Challenges of Super-Diverse Populations in Australia and the Asia-Pacific Region’, in Canberra on 13-14 June. Her paper on 'Linguistic Stereotyping and Discrimination’, discussed, among other things, the results from the Sydney Speaks app. The symposium brought together academics, government officials and policy makers to share and discuss ideas on the types of research needed to identify the important questions for multiculturalism and integration research in Australia and the possible implications these will have for the future. It is important to have linguistic discrimination included in this discussion.

2017-2018 Summer Scholars

Sarah Crafter (Uni Melb) Elena Sheard (USyd; sponsored by ASD) and Nicole Harris (UWA; sponsored by Appen) spent the 2017-2018 summer as Summer Research Scholars on the project. Sarah and Elena looked at a constellation of variable features, and found that possessive me and variable (ING) tend to pattern together (favoured by male, working class speakers), while like is a new form that is used across the community. Sarah worked on the development of an app for sociophonetic analyses.

 CoEDL Vowel Map

Sydney Speaks is currently compiling a CoEDL vowel map, and we would like to include your vowels on it. It involves being recorded while reading a short passage, and then having your vowels in that passage mapped. You will then be given access to look at where your vowels sit, in relation to others across the Centre (by variety of English, native language, gender, age, node, etc.).

Thank you very much to those of you who have already participated. If you haven’t yet been recorded, it will take only 5-10 mins of your time. Please contact Simón Gonzalez to make your recording in the CoEDL Recording Studio.



2017 ANU Student Research Conference: Charbel El-Khaissi

Congratulations to Charbel El-Khaissi, Research Assistant with CoEDL’s Sydney Speaks project, who has won the exceptional presentation poster prize at the 2017 ANU Student Research Conference. Charbel used data from the Sydney Social Dialect Survey collected in the 1970s, which is part of the Sydney Speaks Corpora, to explore linguistic variation in Australian English. 

Read more about it here


 CoEDL Summer School 2017

The 3rd Summer School of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language will be held from the 27 November until the 1 December 2017 at the ANU. The Sydney Speaks team will be leading 'Sociolinguistics in the 21st Century'. 

Variationist sociolinguistics has been a trailblazer in areas that have become central to linguistics today, including: analysis based on corpora of spontaneous speech; the application of statistical models; attention paid to minority communities; and the promotion of interdisciplinary work, both between sub-disciplines of linguistics and across disciplines concerned with the study of human society. This course considers some of the key insights that have been put forward over 50 years of variationist work, and places them in the context of linguistics in the 21st Century.

The course will include opportunities for discussion and data analysis. Participants can also engage in a sociophonetics game and have their vowels included in a CoEDL vowel map.

More information about Summer School and registration is located here.


 CoEDL Fest 2017,  University of Queensland

Catherine Travis presented a progress update of the Sydney Speaks Project at CoEDL Fest 2017, showing how the continuing digitisation of spontaneous speech from the 1970s and the ongoing collection of data from contemporary Sydney-siders provides great opportunity to extend our understanding of how Australian English is changing over time, with a specific focus on the role of ethnicity.

Postdocs Simón González and James Grama presented an interactive poster exploring programs that automatically generated output for significantly different vowel distributions based on social factors. Their presentation prompted valuable methodological discussions with fellow CoEDL researchers and students.


Postdoctoral Researchers, Simón González Ochoa and James Grama, join the Sydney Speaks team

The Sydney Speaks team grows in 2017 as two new postdoctoral researchers join the project.

James Grama has just arrived from Santa Monica College, where he took up a position after completing his PhD at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa looking at English and English-based creoles. Simón Gonzalez Ochoa is also new to the team, having arrived at the end of 2016 from a position at Griffith University, working on a project exploring West Australian English.

James and Simón will be based at ANU as they work to better understand how Sydney's growing diversity has an effect on Australian English. 


Launch of the Sydney Speaks Project: 26-27 November 2015

In November 2015, we launched the project as part of a two-day workshop, which included presentations by Barbara Horvath (University of Sydney) and Greg Guy (New York University). View the program and abstracts here.

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