Australian English is a major variety of the English language and is used throughout Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is Australia's de facto official language and is the first language of the majority of the population.
Australian English started diverging from British English after the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788 and was recognised as being different from British English by 1820. It arose from the intermingling of children of early settlers from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of the British Isles and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English.
Australian English differs from other Englishes primarily in its accent and vocabulary. The major features of the accent were established by the 1830s. In the period between colonial settlement (1788) and the 1830s, when the foundation accent was being forged, new lexical items to describe the new environment, especially its flora and fauna, were developed either from Aboriginal languages (coolibah, wombat, wallaby, waratah, and so on) or from the ‘transported’ English word stock (native bear, wild cherry, and so on).
Many more vocabulary items were later added in response to the nineteenth-century process of settlement and pastoral expansion. All of this seems at once predictable and inevitable—this is the way a colonial society imposes its linguistic footprint on a subjected land.
And then, at the end of the nineteenth century, something curious and largely unpredictable happened to Australian English. In response to a newly-developed concept of received pronunciation in Britain, which was closely tied to notions of social prestige, some Australian speakers modified their vowels and diphthongs in order to move them towards the British exemplars. From the 1890s, and well into the 1950s, elocution was in the air, and elocution teachers found a ready market for the teaching...