LINGUIST List 6.1048

Thu Aug 3 1995

Sum: English Dialect sample sources

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. "L. HILLMAN", SUM: English Dialect sample sources

Message 1: SUM: English Dialect sample sources

Date: Thu, 03 Aug 1995 21:13:21 SUM: English Dialect sample sources
From: "L. HILLMAN" <>
Subject: SUM: English Dialect sample sources

These are the responses to my query about finding audio samples of
dialects of English.

Thanks for the suggestions and comments below; I take the liberty of
quoting most of them in full.

In addition to the items mentioned below, I managed to locate:

(1) A 1971 BBC recording entitled "English with a Dialect" which
contains 24 short samples of British English dialects and 8 more of
"Irish, Scottish and Welsh accents." The record jacket says that the
record was produced "to provide a tool of the actor's craft," and for
use in classrooms. I find it fascinating, and believe it will be
extremely valuable to me.

(2) A collection of cassettes with accompanying manual, entitled "Acting
with an Accent," by David A. Stern. These are also aimed at actors who
need to portray non-native English speakers. However, I found most of
them not to be useful as classroom materials; they stereotype the two or
three most prominent pronunciation features of the various speakers when
speaking English, rather than providing students with a real
understanding of dialect, nor even of phonological interference
mechanisms in second language learning.

My other responses and comments are interpolated in the quotations,
within [ ]. Apologies for the length of this summary.

Louis B. Hillman

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I've found quite a lot of tapes that are available commercially as
supplements (bought separately) to the following books:

J.C. Wells, Accents of English. Cambridge UP 1992. (whole world)

A. Hughes and P. Trudgill, English Accents and Dialects. 2nd edition.
Arnold 1979/1987. (UK only)

D. Freeborn, Varieties of English. Macmillan. 1987. (UK and W. Indies
only; some fascinating material for other aspects of socio as well as

I think they're all available just like books. They tend to cost about
7 pounds sterling.

- ---------------------------

The following resources will guide you to free and commercially
available recordings of North American English dialects:

Donna Christian, 1986, American English speech recordings: A guide to
collections. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Michael D. Linn and Marrit-Hannele Zuber, 1984, The sound of English: A
bibliography of language recordings. Urbana IL, NCTE.

Michael D. Linn, 1993, Appendix: Resources for research. In Dennis R.
Preston (ed.), American dialect research, Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp.

A few other specifics which may not be mentioned in the above (and if
they are I apologize):

1) Longish recordings from Inland Northern, Brooklyn NY, Eastern New
England, South Midland, Phildelphia, and Alabama were available on a
record from NCTE entitled 'Americans Speaking.' There is an an
accompanying booklet (by Raven McDavid and John Muri) with the same
title; it has the texts for a reading passage, transcriptions of free
conversation, and lists of features. It is dated 1967 and may be out of
print, but it is worth a try at NCTE.

[Alice Horning ( also mentioned this
recording. I found a copy and I must warn you that this copy, at least,
is in _78_RPM_ FORMAT!! No publication date. I plan to copy it -- as
soon as I find suitable equipment. LH]

2) There is an old record called 'Our Changing Language' jointly
published by NCTE and McGraw-Hill. It contains fifteen or more reading
passages from all over the US and Canada. If it is still available, it
is well worth digging out; it is the best selection of short samples I
have heard. It is also by Raven McDavid and has good commentary on the
record jacket. It has, as well, a lot of stuff on the history of
English in general, but the dialect samples really cover the territory.
(The drawback is that they are old recordings and do not illustrate some
on-going sound changes very dramatically, particualrly the Northern
Cities Shift.)

[I found this recording; in addition to the American dialect passages,
it contains several interesting passages comparing British and American
speech. It also contains readings from Old English ("Beowulf"); Middle
English (Chaucer); and Early Modern English (Shakespeare). The
narrator's dialect is itself interesting, by the way, as an example of
the "radio announcer" dialect of the period. Published in 1965; 33rpm
format. LH]

3) There are some recordings which accompany two books: Timothy Shopen
and Joseph Williams, 1980, Standards and dialects in English, Cambridge
MA: Winthrop; and Diane Bryen, Cheryl Hartmen, and Pearl Tait, 1978,
Variant English, Columbus OH: Charles Merrill. Both are rather more
sociolinguistically than geographically oriented.

The Christian, Linn and Zuber, and Linn bibliographies will give you the
best coverage of what is available in American English dialect
recordings (and, nicely, how to get them). More better: most are free.

[Oh, yes; free _is_ the best price, isn't it? LH]

- ---------------------------

There is a cassette that goes with Trudgill and Hannah's INTERNATIONAL
passage in thirteen different dialects, ten of which are non-North

- ---------------------------

What I have been using lately, for reasons of my own, are tapes of
poetry readings; the trick is to find poets who are good exemplars of
various dialects. Audio-Forum and Caedmon are the two biggest
suppliers, I think. A-F's address is 96 Broad Street, Guilford CT,
06437; I don't know Caedmon's offhand.

- ---------------------------

The Ohio State Language Files publishers, Advocate Publishing Group of
Reynoldsburg, OH, used to have a set of tapes illustrating a range of

- ---------------------------

Just an idea .... You may be able to get some more samples of
international English dialects by recording from short-wave broadcasts.
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