The most common observation made of the Australian accent is that all sentences end with an upward inflection. Indeed, the accusation is often made that this 'blight' is affecting the voices of younger Britons.
In truth, accents and speaking styles are constantly subject to outside influences, whether it's the 'Valley Girl', "And I was, like, totally, y'know. And he's all...etc." Or that most wonderful fusion heard on London buses, where the confluence of Asian, Jamaican, Cockney and US hip-hop creates a 'mash-up' that makes it impossible to tell the ethnicity of the speaker without looking.
Anyway, back to Australia. It is inaccurate to describe every sentence as ending up. This device is actually used to inform the listener that there is more to come, whereas the final line finishes down. This is not always the case, but certainly the most common use.
There are lots of methods employed to keep control of a conversation, be it 'you know', 'is it', 'like' or 'd'you what I mean'. All of which indicates a universal truth; everyone is insecure, and needs constant verbal or non-verbal validation in order to continue a conversation. Ooh, I love a good generalisation, me, so here's a few more:
- Australians use names much more frequently bthan their British counterparts. If you introduce yourself, the person with whom you are conversing will use your name with a frequency that is unfamiliar to the British ear. I suspect that one of the effects of this is that Australians are better at remembering people's names, but I have no data to back up this theory, so let's just assume I'm right.
- Using the word, "Look" at the beginning of the sentence is common, and does not carry the same aggresive undertone that it would in the UK. This may be in part because the UK use would most likely have the prefix 'now'. "Now look, there's no need to generalise." etc.
- Some words are best avoided altogether. If you are attending a sporting event in Australia, do not ask "Who are you rooting for?" In Australia, 'rooting' is a slang word for having sexual intercourse.
- By contrast, there is a liberal throwing around of spunk. Everyone is full of spunk. Spunky. Spunk on the sports field is applauded. Down here, spunk does not come from down there. Rather than being a slang term for semen, spunk is used to denote enthusiasm, boldness, energy or courage. Confusingly, it may also be used to describe the attractiveness of males. Should you wish to find an Australian euphemism for semen, then might I recommend 'spoof'?
- Football is a battle ground. That's the word, obviously, unless you are talking about rugby league, in which case 'battle ground' pretty much sums it up. Again, this is a subject I have visited in the past, but I have an update. With Australia qualifying for the World Cup, and the domestic A League gaining a wider audience, more Australians are using the f-word to describe soccer. This could cause some awkwardness, what with the national team being known as the Socceroos...
All of which goes to show that any living language is built on shifting sands; a fluid form of communication that only has meaning when both parties ascribe the same definitions to the words used. To ensure this is the case, ending on the up is a device that usually garners a non-verbal response from the listener that means "I understand. Do go on."
That said, it makes it bloody hard to ask anyone a question...