Adapting Legacy Regional Language Materials to an Interactive Online Format

Adapting Legacy Regional Language Materials to an Interactive Online Format: The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador (DANL) Project

By Sandra Clarke

Methods in Dialectology 14 Conference (Workshop: Dialect and Heritage Language Corpora for the Google Generation) University of Western Ontario, August 2, 2011


Despite the existence of many tape-recorded heritage regional dialect corpora, the considerable outlay of time and money required until very recently to document spatially-correlated variable features helps to clarify why, in the English-speaking world, only a handful of regional dialect atlases have ever been published. The advent of digital technologies, however, provides a wealth of new possibilities for the display and dissemination of regional dialect data. This paper outlines one such recent approach: the Online Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador English (DANL; Grounded in heritage recordings made three to five decades ago with conservative rural speakers born between c. 1870 and 1920, DANL provides information on the spatial distribution not only of lexical items (over 40,000 responses to a 566-item questionnaire), but also of 'structural' features (29 phonological, 27 morphosyntactic).

This paper outlines the DANL project, with particular focus on issues of long-term preservation and public access. Rather than specially-designed computer programs, the project relies on readily available, upgradeable and cost-effective commercial relational database and GIS software to produce online map and other visual displays. It also utilizes digital audio editing software to enhance phonetic feature presentation via illustrative sound files.

Given the historical importance of – and public interest in – its heritage materials, a guiding principle of DANL is that it be easily accessible to non-academic and academic audiences alike. To this end, the project is developing interactive components grounded in Web 2.0 technologies. These will enable present-day users to contribute their own linguistic usage (cf. such interactive regional lexicon sites as the Australian Word Map and BBC Voices) and, at the same time, to compare their own speech forms to those of their great-grandparents' generation. Further, DANL will be adapted to multiple platforms, including handheld and mobile devices, thereby ensuring broad accessibility for some years to come.


Australian Word Map. <>. Co-produced by ABC Online and the Macquarie Library.

BBC Voices. <>.


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