SCIENCE
11/01/2015 11:30 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2015

Drunk Settlers To Blame For Aussie Accent, Lecturer Says

It's a highly controversial theory among other academics.

Scientists have long known that the modern Australian accent developed from a combination of European settlers' and Aborigines' pronunciations -- but a provocative new theory claims the accent may also have boozy origins.

Dean Frenkel, a speech and communications lecturer at Victoria University, wrote an opinion piece this week in Melbourne daily newspaper The Age arguing that the Australian accent was heavily influenced by the drunken slurs of the country's original settlers.

"Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns," he wrote.

"Missing consonants can include missing 't's (Impordant), 'l;s (Austraya) and 's's (yesh), while many of our vowels are lazily transformed into other vowels," he explains in the piece. "If we all received communication training, Australia would become a cleverer country."

Frenkel's piece swiftly drew criticism from linguistics researchers, as there currently doesn't seem to be evidence to support it.

"There is no evidence that alcohol consumption has any long-term effect on one's own language, let alone transgenerational language transmission," Aidan Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at the University of Melbourne, told The Huffington Post.

Dr. Rob Pensalfini, a senior lecturer in languages and cultures at the University of Queensland, compared the theory to other accent-origin ideas that don't have scientific backing.

"They say New Yorkers have nasal voices because they have to cut through the noise of the traffic," he told the Australian Broadcasting Company. "The original [joke] for Australia was we speak in a slurred and closed-lip way to keep the flies out of their mouths. ... They're all completely baseless [and] I want to see the evidence, I want to see the instrumental valuations."

The Australian accent is a relatively new dialect of English, as it's just over 200 years old. 

Though many scientists disagree with Frenkel's theory, some residents of Australia seem to be responding more lightly:

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Dean Frenkel as a linguist, which he is not.

 

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