In the past

In the past

The Australian Ancestors Project

Interesting examples: Sound bites from the past

The Australian Ancestors Project is a research project which involves an acoustic phonetic analysis of historical speech data. It continues to provide important insights into the history of Australian English and the nature of sound change in language generally. The extensive historical database generated by this project contains valuable material for the examination of current phonetic theories and through this work we are developing new methods and techniques in quantifying language change. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of many individuals who have donated samples of their ancestors' voices.

Mr Luscombe

born: 1873
age: 82 (at recording)
grew up: qld 
listen for "new", "morning", "line", "pommy"

Older way of saying "new"

Mr Luscombe is telling a funny story about a friend who tried to use a live frog as bait while fishing.

Mr Luscombe

born: 1873
age: 82 (at recording)
grew up: qld 
listen for "new", "morning", "line", "pommy"

Older way of saying "new"

Mr Luscombe is telling a funny story about a friend who tried to use a live frog as bait while fishing.


Mr Luscombe has an older way of saying the word "new". He uses the single consonant /n/ at the beginning of the word. Australian English speakers today would use /nj/ instead. He also has an interesting intonation pattern and some older forms of vowels such as in the words "Tommies", "line" and "morning". You can tell that he is elderly by the characteristics of his voice quality.

Mr Bennett

born: 1880
grew up: Gulgong NSW
listen for: intrusive "r" "kelly" "died" "old"

Intrusive "r"

In this excerpt Mr Bennett is discussing the alleged return of Dan Kelly.

Mr Bennett

born: 1880
grew up: Gulgong NSW
listen for: intrusive "r" "kelly" "died" "old"

Intrusive "r"

In this excerpt Mr Bennett is discussing the alleged return of Dan Kelly.


One interesting characteristic of his speech is the insertion of an "r" sound between words. In the following phrases the inserted "r" is called intrusive "r" and occurs in "India I", "saw 'is" and "Calcutta 'arbour". He also uses a different form of "l" sound in the word "Kelly" and has older forms of the vowels in "died" and "old".

Mr Carroll

born: 1878
grew up: QLD
listen for: "later" "died"

"later", "died"

Mr Carroll discusses an incident where two shearers died after being given poisoned rum. He uses older forms of the vowels in "later" and "died".

Mr Carroll

born: 1878
grew up: QLD
listen for: "later" "died"

"later", "died"

Mr Carroll discusses an incident where two shearers died after being given poisoned rum. He uses older forms of the vowels in "later" and "died".


Miss Morrison

born: 1889
grew up: NSW
listen for: "bull" "ankles" "alone" "along"

Older form of "l"

Miss Morrison describes an incident that occurred while she was walking along a country road with a school inspector. She uses an older form of the "l" sound in "bull", "alone", "along" and "ankles".

Miss Morrison

born: 1889
grew up: NSW
listen for: "bull" "ankles" "alone" "along"

Older form of "l"

Miss Morrison describes an incident that occurred while she was walking along a country road with a school inspector. She uses an older form of the "l" sound in "bull", "alone", "along" and "ankles".


Mrs David

born: 1890
grew up: NSW
listen for: "cabin", "hole"

Mrs David recounts an incident where her cabin was nearly set alight by a man dropping a cigarette into a petrol tank. Listen to the first vowel sound in "cabin". This is an older form of this vowel. Also the vowel sound in "hole" is not pronounced in this way anymore.

Mrs David

born: 1890
grew up: NSW
listen for: "cabin", "hole"

Mrs David recounts an incident where her cabin was nearly set alight by a man dropping a cigarette into a petrol tank. Listen to the first vowel sound in "cabin". This is an older form of this vowel. Also the vowel sound in "hole" is not pronounced in this way anymore.


Mr Mills

born: 1885
grew up: TAS

Mr Mills discusses a visit to a hotel in Victoria where Kate Kelly was working.

Mr Mills

born: 1885
grew up: TAS

Mr Mills discusses a visit to a hotel in Victoria where Kate Kelly was working.


Mr Nix

born: 1884
grew up: NSW
listen for: "Kelly" "beard"

Older form of "l"

Mr Nix describes a scene where his friend met Ned Kelly. Listen to the vowel in "beard" and the older form of the "l" sound in "Kelly"

Mr Nix

born: 1884
grew up: NSW
listen for: "Kelly" "beard"

Older form of "l"

Mr Nix describes a scene where his friend met Ned Kelly. Listen to the vowel in "beard" and the older form of the "l" sound in "Kelly"


Mr Hill

born: 1880
grew up: TAS

Mr Hill is reminiscing about wedding celebrations in his youth.

Mr Hill

born: 1880
grew up: TAS

Mr Hill is reminiscing about wedding celebrations in his youth.


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