Image for ‘Ee by gum’: the hunt for England’s old dialects

‘Ee by gum’: the hunt for England’s old dialects

Old English dialects are being digitalised as part of a project to bring vernaculars back to the regions they came from

Old English dialects are being digitalised as part of a project to bring vernaculars back to the regions they came from

Ee by gum, it’s big talk from researchers at the University of Leeds: they have made their vast collection of English dialects available to the public – and they’re on the hunt for more.

The university’s Survey of English Dialects captured the language and lifestyles of speakers across the country in the 1950s and 60s.

Now these voices from the past have been digitised and collated in the university’s ‘In Your Words’ project, with backing from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It’s the place to find out where in the world ‘wommal’ means ‘dog’, which West Country towns like to add an ‘L’ at the end of words after a vowel, and where you might play a good game of ‘wallops’ (main picture).

But language is a restless, evolving beast, and although the university’s archive is the most famous and complete collection of dialects in England, there’s room for more.

Those behind the Great Big Dialect Hunt are inviting members of the public to record and send in their own words and phrases to bring the collection into the 21st century, either via its interactive website or in person at five participating museums.

Project leader Dr Fiona Douglas from the university’s School of English (her favourite dialect word is ‘offcumden’, meaning ‘newcomer’) said: “It’s so exciting to finally be able to share these amazing resources and to bring these dialects and stories back home to local communities, where they belong.”

Main image:Kissling, Werner

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