Sociolinguists Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling interview Ocracoke Islander Dave Esham on his boat, 1996. Photograph by Herman Lankford.
About this image
The Center for Applied Linguistics Collection contains 118 hours of recordings documenting North American English dialects. The recordings include speech samples, linguistic interviews, oral histories, conversations, and excerpts from public speeches. They were drawn from various archives, and from the private collections of fifty collectors, including linguists, dialectologists, and folklorists. They were submitted to the Center for Applied Linguistics as part of a project entitled "A Survey and Collection of American English Dialect Recordings," which was funded by the Center for Applied Linguistics and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The survey's documentation covers social aspects of English language usage in different regions of the United States. It reveals distinctions in speech related to gender, race, social class, education, age, literacy, ethnic background, and occupational group (including the specialized jargon or vocabulary of various occupations). The oral history interviews are a rich resource on many topics, such as storytelling and family histories; descriptions of holiday celebrations, traditional farming, schools, education, health care, and the uses of traditional medicines; and discussions of race relations, politics, and natural disasters such as floods.
The collection includes recordings from forty-three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and parts of Canada. They were made from 1941 to 1984, with the bulk being recorded between 1968 and 1982. In some cases, transcriptions made by the collectors are available as part of this web presentation.