Friday, 25 June 2010

yanks and kiwis

A collaborative US-NZ research project being carried out at the universities of Yale and Auckland is collecting data on different accents in American English.
We'd like recordings from anyone who has grown up speaking English in America or Canada. We would like to get information about as many different types of American English as possible. The more diverse our participants, the more representative it will be of the ways Americans speak.

Everything is being done over the internet, and recordings can be made by anyone who has access to a computer with a microphone and a sound card.
Your computer’s internal microphone is usually good enough, or you can use an external microphone or headset.

The researchers say
We want to record speech examples from as many people as possible, but it is not feasible for us to record participants in person. That's why we've set up this web site. When you click on the link below, a web page will come up with a recording box and a set of questions to enter into the comments box for the recording. When you're ready to begin the survey, there will be a "record" button to click on. You can then read aloud the words for the experiment.
When you've finished the words, press the "stop" button and the "send" button. The whole survey will take about 3 minutes to do.

So the recordings will be restricted to words read aloud. Sociolinguists have demonstrated that people’s pronunciation in this formal “word list” style can differ considerably from what they do in less formal styles, and in particular from what they do in spontaneous conversation.
We know that New Yorkers and Bostonians are more likely to articulate a nonprevocalic r when reading lists of words aloud than they are in other styles of speech. What might be ˈfaːmə (farmer) in a New Englander’s ‘natural’ speech may become ˈfɑːrmɚ when read aloud. A typical casual bẽəd for bad reverts to bæd in careful speech.
Nevertheless, despite this limitation, something is much better than nothing. Go for it, American and Canadian readers!


  1. But John, upon my word! Something WRONG is much better than nothing?

  2. Word reading style is not wrong, just limited.

  3. Ok, but you must admit that there was something wrong: me.

  4. @ Anonymous: Which means that you're worse than nothing, you dirty rat!

  5. Why do Kiwis want to know about American accents? I thought our (American) accents were hated by everyone.

  6. @Anon, the US-based researcher (me) is Australian to boot .. :)
    We're aware of the limitations of elicitation with wordlists, but because we're looking to get so much data we need to have a standard dataset. But remember also that just about all data collection methods introduce some sort of bias. At least with getting people to talk to themselves (or to a computer) we're standardising the interaction.