This is just a little hobby of mine, that I thought might be interesting to a lot of people. Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. I collect dialects.
[By “dialects” Aschmann means what I would call “ (native speaker) accents”, i.e. pronunciation varieties: as far as I can see there is nothing here about morphology or vocabulary.]
Eric Armstrong comments
his remarkable maps are quite amazing! Having studied the Atlas of North American English quite a lot, he's done a remarkable job of combining their materials into one huge, very strong resource. Really cool, especially for someone who considers himself as a hobbyist. Maybe this site was old to others, but it was a real find for me!— with which I would concur.
Aschmann’s site is based on Labov’s work but supplemented with several hundred audio recordings, mostly from YouTube, keyed into their appropriate geographical locations.
This site is clearly full of interesting material, and Aschmann is to be congratulated on it. I haven’t yet had time to explore it more than very superficially, so what follows is a criticism that some may consider superficial.
Regrettably, Aschmann eschews IPA notation in favour of the impenetrable “respelling” system found in the American Heritage Dictionary (but not used by any phoneticians or dialectologists, unknown outside North America, and not even the same as the Trager-type notation used by Labov). In this day and age, what good reason can there be for writing “ä” instead of ɑ or “ô” instead of ɔ?
Aschmann is under the mistaken impression that IPA notation is phonetic rather than phonemic.
This pronunciation system has the advantage that it is phonemic, rather than phonetic (like the IPA), and thus allows different dialects to use the same pronunciation key and get the right result for each dialect.IPA notation can, of course, be either or neither. By far its largest consumer group is learners of foreign languages and particularly of English, who use it virtually only as a phonemic system.
Personally, I think my system of lexical sets (blog, 1 Feb 2010) performs the function referred to more transparently and helpfully than any alphabetic notation.
[See also this discussion on Language Log.]