Voices of Newfoundland and Labrador

Directed by Sandra Clarke (Linguistics), Philip Hiscock (Folklore), Robert Hollett (English)

This project addresses an important gap in the documentation of Newfoundland and Labrador English: the need for high-quality sound samples representing the wide range of linguistic variation to be found within the province. Over 60 short samples of speech have been digitized from conversational as well as radio interviews. These span the last 50 years, and represent 58 different communities from all areas of the island, along with 11 communities in Labrador.

The project's output – a website containing the digitized speech samples, along with transcripts, notes and interpretive text – is intended not only for a linguistic audience, but for all those with an interest in the cultural heritage of the province.

The Voices website is presently under development. Intended as a sister site to the Dialect Atlas, Voices differs from the Atlas in that its speech samples are considerably longer. Voices offers a standard orthographical transcript which we hope to time-align with audio segments. This transcript captures speakers' local grammatical features. In addition, Voices offers a phonetic transcription of a one-minute segment from each audio file and detailed information on the main linguistic features of each speaker including descriptions of vowel and consonant pronunciations as well as detailed information on grammatical features and vocabulary.

Though the primary focus is on traditional rural speech (the oldest speaker was born in the 1870s), coverage extends to younger urban speakers born in the 1980s. The samples thus provide not only a picture of spoken English as it has evolved over the past century, but also considerable information on the regional differences in phonology and morphosyntax that occur within the province. The identification of the principal linguistic features of each speech sample should provide a baseline for future linguistic work on regional variation in Newfoundland English.

This project has received financial support from the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the J.R. Smallwood Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.