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Crowd sourced language app documents evolution of English dialects


By John Glenday | Reporter

January 12, 2016 | 2 min read

A smartphone app capable of differentiating between regional English dialects for the first time has been launched by linguistics experts.

English Dialects

English Dialects, available on iOS and Android, aims to document the evolving nature of the spoken word in England over the past 60 years by harnessing the power of crowd sourcing to categorise voice recordings.

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Zurich and Bern invited people to choose their pronunciation of 26 different words before hazarding a guess at marrying up the sound with local geography.

Adrian Leemann, a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics said: “We want to document how English dialects have changed, spread or levelled out. The first large-scale documentation of English dialects dates back 60-70 years [known as the Survey of English Dialects].

“We hope that people in their tens of thousands will download the app and let us know their results – which means our future attempts at mapping dialect and language change should be much more precise. Users can also interact with us by recording their own dialect terms and this will let us see how the English language is evolving and moving from place to place.”

The app follows the success of a Swiss German variant which racked up over one million hits in four days on Germany’s Der Spiegel website.


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