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The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador

Directed by Sandra Clarke (Linguistics), in collaboration with Philip Hiscock (Folklore). Web design, programming and technical support by Memorial's DELTS (Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support) and by Computing and Communications (C&C) Webworks.

The online Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador was formally launched on October 23, 2013, to considerable media attention. More than a decade in the making, it documents regional differences in selected features of pronunciation, morphosyntax (grammar) and lexicon within the spoken English of the province. Its "structural" component – grounded in regional dialect data for traditional speakers in 69 coastal communities on the island of Newfoundland, assembled in the 1970s and 1980s by linguist Harold Paddock – expands the original project to include information on the geographical distribution of 31 features of pronunciation and 27 features of grammar. Its lexical ("words") component documents responses to a 566-item questionnaire from 126 traditional speakers in 20 representative communities, in both the island and Labrador portions of the province.

The Atlas can be accessed at www.dialectatlas.mun.ca or by clicking here. In addition, a general introduction and overview is provided in a promotional video produced by Debbie McGee of DELTS, available here or by pasting the following link into your browser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10MSgbnYGjk&feature=youtu.be

One of the very few online dialect atlases in the English-speaking world, the Atlas is designed to appeal not simply to scholars, educators and students, but also to the public at large. An important component is the provision of thousands of illustrative audio clips for the Atlas' pronunciation features, thereby enabling web users to hear the actual voices of Newfoundland speakers born as early as 1871. An "Activities" section provides site visitors with an opportunity to test their knowledge of – and increase their familiarity with – Newfoundland and Labrador English, in a dynamic and interactive environment. The Atlas also invites contributions and comments concerning current and observed usage of local features of English.

The Atlas has benefitted from financial support from Memorial University in the form of grants from the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) and the J.R. Smallwood Foundation, along with considerable funding for student assistance (full information is provided in the "About" section of the online Atlas). Its present format, however, was made possible by a generous Public Outreach Dissemination Grant awarded in 2011 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Despite its launch, work continues on the Atlas. A "search by community" function is under development. So too is the conversion of its databases to a format that will be made available, upon application, to interested scholars. In addition, the Atlas team is engaging with the Department of Education of Newfoundland and Labrador to develop ways in which the Atlas can be profitably incorporated into the province's school curricula.

 

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