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The Hunt for England’s Old Dialects

Old English dialects are being digitalised as part of a project to bring vernaculars back to the regions they came from and to enable the public to listen to the numerous old dialects around the country.

Man recording the voice of a Yorkshireman in the 1960s
A fieldworker talking to a man in North Yorkshire for the original survey. Credit: University of Leeds

The University of Leeds Survey of English Dialects captured the language and lifestyles of speakers across the country in the 1950s and 60s. The results, which include many photographs and audio, amount to a fabulously rich snapshot of how people in England lived and talked. The good news is that they have now made their vast collection of English dialects available to the public. But they’re on the hunt for more.

These voices from the past have been digitised and collated in the university’s ‘In Your Words’ project, with backing from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

But language is a restless, evolving beast, and although the university’s archive is the most famous and complete collection of dialects in England, there’s room for more.

Those behind the Great Big Dialect Hunt are inviting members of the public to record and send in their own words and phrases to bring the collection into the 21st century, either via its interactive website or in person at five participating museums.

Project leader Dr Fiona Douglas from the university’s School of English said: “It’s so exciting to finally be able to share these amazing resources and to bring these dialects and stories back home to local communities, where they belong.”

If you want to submit your own words and phrases, click here. If you would like to rove around the country and listen to various regional dialects, click here.

Dolphin leaping out of the sea
Common dolphin | Ed Dunens | CC license


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