The project

Our maps are based on results from a dialect survey that has been running for many years. The project started out as fieldwork undertaken by students of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Manchester. As part of their coursework for the module Language Variation and Change, these students investigated the linguistic diversity present in British English by asking their friends and family to complete a questionnaire. You can see a sample of one of the early questionnaires here.

Since then, our work has grown into a much larger project and we have continued to collect data from various other universities and from the wider population. Over 8000 English speakers have participated in our study since its inception in 2013: they range in age from 10 to 89 and span a geographical region from Lewis to Cornwall.

Laurel MacKenzie, George Bailey, and Danielle Turton gave a presentation on the maps at Methods in Dialectology XV in Groningen, Netherlands. You can see the slides here, which give more information about how the maps were made. There are also various publications in the pipeline based on this dialect data, so watch this space!

The researchers

Dr Laurel MacKenzie is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at New York University. She directed and oversaw the work presented here as Lecturer in English Linguistics at the University of Manchester and course convener for the module Language Variation and Change. Her research addresses how linguistic variation is structured and represented in the mind, and whether language can change over the lifespan.

Dr George Bailey is a Lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology at the University of York. He studied Language Variation and Change as part of his undergraduate degree and soon after began development of this website to showcase our findings. George’s PhD research was carried out at the University of Manchester, where he studied variation and change in velar nasals in the North West of England. He also uses a variety of experimental techniques, such as ultrasound tongue imaging, to better understand the articulation of certain sound sequences in northern British English dialects.

Dr Danielle Turton is a Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at Lancaster University. She helped plan and design the maps project while serving as a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester. Her research uses experimental methods in phonology and phonetics to look at language variation and change, particularly in the Manchester accent. She has recently been using ultrasound to monitor tongue movements for different accents of English.

The website

If you wish to cite this website, please use something like the following: MacKenzie, Laurel, George Bailey & Danielle Turton. 2016. Our Dialects: Mapping variation in English in the UK [Website]. https://www.ourdialects.uk.

We occasionally use symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) throughout this website to refer to specific sounds. You can learn more about the IPA and listen to the sounds here.

Much of the background research for this website is based on Accents of English, Vols. 1 and 2, by J. C. Wells (1982), and English Accents & Dialects by Arthur Hughes, Peter Trudgill, and Dominic Watt (2012).

The website is maintained by Dr George Bailey at the University of York: if you have any questions about the website, data, or survey, please get in touch via email at george [dot] bailey [at] york [dot] ac [dot] uk.

Acknowledgements

Generous financial support for this project has come from:

  • Multilingual Manchester
  • The University of Manchester’s Social Responsibility in the Curriculum competition
  • The University of Manchester’s Learning through Research small project funding scheme

This project has also greatly benefitted from the input and ideas of William Labov and Gillian Sankoff, and we would also like to thank Marije van Hattum for contributing to data collection at the University of Manchester.

Finally, thanks go to everyone who has responded to our dialect survey: students at the University of Manchester, Newcastle University, the University of York and Lancaster University, as well as their friends/family and everyone else who has ‘lent’ us their dialect for the purposes of this research.