A web-based survey of North American English

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Quentin Atkinson, Claire Bowern, and Russell Gray have launched a web-based "North American English Dialect Survey".

They're looking for participation from "anyone who has grown up speaking English in America or Canada". All you need is an internet-connected computer with a microphone and a web browser that can run Flash. You participate by connecting to a Flash application that gives you prompts and records your responses.

They ask for basic demographic information, but participants are of course anonymous. This is a great idea, and I certainly encourage participation. Check it out!

If you're an English speaker from outside North America, hang on, I expect that they (or others) will get to you soon.

[Claire Bowern teaches at Yale, and blogs at Anggarrgoon and at Fully (sic), and has been featured dozens of times here at Language Log. So have Gray and Atkinson, who are based in Auckland.]


  1. language hat said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    Excellent! (Minor quibble: You misspelled Anggarrgoon, which is so easy to do that I routinely copy-and-paste from the blog itself.)

    [(myl) Oops — fixed now. Anggarrgoon is a violation of Orthographic Charge-Parity Conservation, or something.]

  2. marie-lucie said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    To my knowledge there has been quite a lot of work done on Canadian English dialects, of which there are many more in the East than in the West.

  3. Claire Bowern said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

    @Marie-Lucie, there's been a lot of work done on US dialects too :) but somewhat to our surprise no one had done a large-scale standardized phonetic survey — Labov's Atlas of North American English is the largest, but it's based on 437 detailed analysis, which is a lot in phonetic transcription terms but not much when looking at correlates of variation on a national level. It's also only "white" speakers, so to my mind it doesn't give a proper picture of US dialectal diversity more generally. We looked at trying to mesh Labov's results with other surveys of regional varieties (for example the work that Erik Thomas and colleagues have been doing) but because each survey used different prompts it was hard to get enough coverage of comparable data.
    @myl: Bardi has 23 phonemes and if I count right, 16 of them are written with digraphs in the "practical" orthography. Even I can't spell my email address aloud half the time.

  4. JHH said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    Flash-Enabled? Um, I tried on Safari, and I tried on FireFox. It *seems* that neither one worked. Is "flash-enabled" a sneaky way to say that you don't want input from Mac users? :(

    If not, do you have technical suggestions for the rest of us?

  5. JHH said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

    P.s. My comment is directed at the people running the survey, not at the kind messenger.

  6. Nicki said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    Wonder if they can use my data – native English speaker who went to high school in Florida but currently resides abroad…did the recording anyway just in case they can.

  7. Nick said,

    June 22, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

    @JHH: I'm on a Mac and I was able to do the survey just fine (albeit on Chrome).

    @Claire: I'm getting ready for my first fieldwork trip this summer and I just picked up your book. It's great so far. Glad I could help with the survey.

  8. Max Pinton said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 12:33 am

    Worked fine for me on a Mac in Safari 5, even using ClickToFlash.

  9. [links] Link salad wanders through the big tent | jlake.com said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 7:48 am

    […] A web-based survey of North American English — In case you're interested. I didn't grow up in North America, so I suppose I am not eligible. […]

  10. Claire said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 9:12 am

    @JHH: The whole project team are mac users. I've tested it on Firefox and Chrome on Mac and PC (it should work on IE too…) My best guess is that the version of Flash you have is out of date.

    @Nicki: Sure. Thanks!

    @Nick: Glad you liked the book.

  11. Daniel Ezra Johnson said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 9:47 am

    What exactly is a "large-scale, standardized phonetic survey"? Also, while the interface is certainly modern, this survey is nevertheless a short word list with one or two words per phoneme. How much can we say about an individual's phonetics (or phonology) based on this? And if the point is to make statements about groups of speakers, is the data from individuals even enough to normalize?

  12. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

    Do is there, but I'm amazed that due isn't.

  13. blahedo said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

    I did the survey (MacBook, btw, so that's fine), but more importantly, I passed it along to friends and family—as someone with a linguistics background I was really fighting not to overthink it. :) Also was pleased to note that my first name—"Don"—was in there, as I've noticed that its vowel is a pretty significant dialect marker (I have a Chicago /a/ in there, but /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ are more common; some merge it with "Dawn" and some not, independently of which vowel is used although "Dawn" is always more back and/or more high; and to some hearers, when I say my name as /dan/ they hear /dæn/).

    Anyway, it'll be nifty to see results from this!

  14. Listen & Learn » Blog Archive » North American English Dialect Survey said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

    […] kindly pointed me to this post on the Language Log blog, about a survey on North American English Dialects that is being conducted […]

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