Losing Those [–ATR] Vowels (Australia)

After watching a memorial to Heath Ledger, I noticed that at least one speaker, Melissa Thomas Dunkley, from Australia had changed lax [–ATR] front vowels [ɪ,ɛ] to [+ATR] [e,i]. For instance him /hɪm/ was [him] (“heem”) but I noticed similar changes of some [ɛ] becoming [e]. A lot of speakers are raising [ɪ] before nasals, but Dunkley has it elsewhere.

Interestingly, a chart of General Australian vowels based on work by Mannell and Cox does show that [e,ɛ] are fairly close, but that [i,I] are fairly distinct. This matches my impression of what I hear listening to most Australian speakers..

On the other hand, I do recall from the movie Strictly Ballroom that the character Fran (Tara Morice) may have had a similar accent to this lady. On the other hand, it’s difficult to determine if this Morice playing a character or her true accent. Unfortunately YouTube is not pulling up any interview footage, but maybe there’s something on the DVD.

While there appears to be a regional dialect in Australia where [ɪ,ɛ] are merging [i,e] (there may still be a length distinction, I’m not sure where it is. Probably not Perth.

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