Ethnicity and social class in pre-vocalic the in Australian English

Gan Qiao, Catherine E. Travis

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022, Special Session 3.30pm – 5pm


Across varieties of English, the realisation of pre-vocalic definite article the is undergoing change, with a move away from non-glottalised FLEECE towards both glottalised FLEECE and SCHWA. Here, we examine this change in apparent time in a socially stratified corpus of spontaneous speech with 91 native speakers of Australian English of Anglo-Celtic, Italian and Chinese background. Analyses of 1,207 tokens reveal that the increase of both new forms is led by women and middle class speakers. An overall higher rate of newer variants by Italian and Chinese Australians is attributable not directly to ethnicity, but to its intersection with social class.