Throughout the nineteenth century, and up to the mid-twentieth century, the Australian population grew rather slowly, based above all (as indeed that of New Zealand) on the immigrant contributions from Great Britain (with not indifferent rates of Irish): it was thus passed by less than half a million residents. from 1850 to 3,750,000 residents at the beginning of the 20th century, to the 8,300,000 residents of 1950. Starting from the fifties there has been a sudden and massive immigration from countries other than Great Britain and Ireland (and in any case not of Anglo-Saxon ancestry): so for example. the Italians present in Australia were, according to the censuses, 33,756 in 1947, but already 119,643 in 1954 and 267,325 in 1966. From the surveys of 1983 it appeared that Australians born in Australia did not reach the 80% of the total population, and, among others, those born in Great Britain, Ireland and even New Zealand did not reach 10%: the rest, about 12.5% of the total, were born in other countries, among which Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece. On the same date, English was the primary language for 82.8% of the population over the age of 4, followed immediately by Italian (with 3.9%, equal to 555,300 people), and by modern Greek (307,800 people, 2.2%), up to a total of 2,404,600 individuals with a mother tongue other than English, 17.2% of all Australians over the age of 4. Particular concentrations of speakers of languages other than English were at that date in Victoria (where about 8.3% of the population over the age of 15 spoke Italian: in Melbourne in 1981 there were 100,177 Italian speakers), in New South Wales (in Sydney on the same date there were 58,351 native speakers of Italian), and then in Australia Southern and Western (in Adelaide 27,726 Italian speakers, and in Perth 23,699, with percentages of the total population ranging from almost 4% in Melbourne to 2.9% in Perth and even 2.1% in Sydney).
In this situation, Australia’s English developed tendencies that can easily be traced back to ” colonial ” conditions, often similar, if not identical, to those of other Anglo-Saxon colonial countries such as the United States and Canada (but the same is true also for South African English). This is the case, for example, due to the tendency towards a more centralized pronunciation of the vowels and with less open lips (as in bay, ingl. Austr. [Bai], non [bei] of Received Pronounciation, or as in bard, ingl.. austr. [ba: d], RP [ba: d]). The same is true for the lexicon (where, however, similar uses can be conveyed by the strong socio-economic and cultural influences of the United States), naturally alongside words typical of the Australian reality such as outback, “inland” (literally “behind and out”) or flying-doctor, “doctor at home”, and more or less typical of the Australia (goodday for hello, picture theater for cinema). Relatively scarce – except in toponymy – borrowings from indigenous languages (names of animals, or terms such as boomerang, corroboree, a kind of ceremonial dance); almost non-existent, apart from some sectors of ” ethnic ” gastronomy, loans from the languages of the most recent emigration. For Australia religion and languages, please check ezinereligion.com.
From the contact between English and the languages of the new immigrants, especially in terms of everyday informal speech, there have been instead developed linguistic types of transition, as in the case of the so-called ” Australian Italian ” or ” Italian-Australian ”, with phonetic structures and Italian grammar and a basic vocabulary English Italianate, with shapes like dora / equip, “daughter” (Engl. daughter), Uora / otate, “water” (Engl. water), or even verbal, as amusarsi, “to have fun” (ingl. to amuse), of which several are found elsewhere, eg. in the Italian-American, as a cart, “automobile” (Eng., “pala” (ingl. shovel).
These sociolinguistic changes have also been accompanied by changes on the level of cultural and / or linguistic policies; when, starting from the 1960s, it became increasingly evident the sometimes dramatic inadequacy (in the changed conditions) of the traditional policy of pure and simple assimilation, with no attention or openness to languages other than English (Languages Other Than English, with the acronym LOTE), while community groups developed in parallel (later collected in the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council) which tended to reclaim their linguistic and cultural rights, political and social organizations of assistance to emigrants (eg for the Italians COASIT) affirmed themselves. In this way, between 1972 and 1975, we arrived at the definition of a policy of ” multiculturalism ”, with the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs, and with the opening of radio and television stations for ethnic groups. In October 1984 the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts of the Senate published a report on the subject, A National Language Policy, establishing precisely the guidelines for the development of an adequate ” multiethnic ” school and cultural policy both at the state level and at the national level. Thus the teaching of the main ethnic languages was promoted already in primary schools (in some states it was also taught previously); in Victoria, in 1983, 153,845 primary school pupils and 59,748 secondary school pupils studied Italian (13.5% and 8.2% of the respective totals), and more recent data confirm a constant growth trend. Also in Victoria, the State Office of Education published in 1985 an important document on The Place of Languages Other Than English in Victorian Schools, which sets the reference criteria for teaching LOTE (in particular the minimum levels considered for this teaching were fixed, at least three hours a week in primary schools); similar actions were undertaken in the same year by the Southern and Queensland, while similar trends are found in all the states.