A peculiar language’

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In his <i>A Letter from Sydney</i> of 1829, Edward Wakefield described the language he encountered in the new colony as &#8220;peculiar&#8221; (in other words, it was distinctive). This paper aims at contributing to our understanding of the linguistic processes that were going on at that time, particularly the survival techniques of those features that went on to thrive in the new variety. It will draw on evidence from nineteenth century New South Wales. While no recordings of this speech are available and reliable written evidence is scarce, we are lucky to have a collection of &#8216;verbatim&#8217; vernacular texts from this period (Corbyn 1854). These texts give us a rare glimpse of the linguistic input from the Englishes that were around during that decisive period, particularly with respect to the phonological level. While it is clear that a range of accent types would have always existed in the colony, we do not know much about the characteristics of these early forms, nor indeed do we know much about the manner in which they later evolved and differentiated.


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