American Regional English dictionary going online (DARE)

American Regional English dictionary going online by Scott Bauer.

From the post:

University of Wisconsin students and researchers set out in “word wagons” nearly 50 years ago to record the ways Americans spoke in various parts of the country.

Now, they’re doing it again, only virtually.

This time they won’t be lugging reel-to-reel tape recorders or sleeping in vans specially equipped with beds, stoves and sinks. Instead, work to update the Dictionary of American Regional English is being done in front of computers, reading online survey results.

“Of course, language changes and a lot of people have the notion that American English is becoming homogenized,” said Joan Houston Hall, who has worked on the dictionary since 1975 and served as its editor since 2000.

The only way to determine if that is true, though, is to do more research, she said.

The dictionary, known as DARE, has more than 60,000 entries exposing variances in the words, phrases, pronunciations, and pieces of grammar and syntax used throughout the country. Linguists consider it a national treasure, and it has been used by everyone from a criminal investigator in the 1990s tracking down the Unabomber to Hollywood dialect coaches trying to be as authentic as possible.

A great resource if you are creating topic maps for American literature during the time period in question.

Be aware that field work stopped in 1970 and any supplements will be by online survey:

Even though no new research has been done for the dictionary since 1970, Hall said she hopes it can now be updated more frequently now that it is going online. The key will be gathering new data tracking how language has changed, or stayed the same, since the first round of field work ended 43 years ago.

But why not break out the 21st century version of the “word wagon” and head out in the field again?

“Because it would be way too expensive and time-consuming,” Hall said, laughing.

So, instead, Hall is loading up the virtual “word wagon” also known as the online survey.

For language usage, there is a forty-three (43) year gap in coverage. Use caution as the vocabulary you are researching moves away from 1970.

The continuation of the project by online surveys will only capture evidence from people who complete online surveys.

Keep that limitation in mind when using DARE after it resumes “online” field work.

Personally, I would prefer more complete field work over the noxious surveillance adventures by non-democratic elements of the U.S. government.

BTW, DARE Digital, from Harvard Press is reported to set you back $150/year.

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