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Using smartphones to collect big data on English dialects

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Giulia Bovolenta.

What do you call an animal that carries its house on its back – hoddy-doddy, dod-man, or snail? Do you think these terms have changed over the past decades? We set out to collect data to analyze how English dialects have evolved using 21st century methods. We developed the app English Dialects (, a free iOS and Android app that asks users to self-report usage of a number of linguistic variables – such as the example above – and then tells them where they are from based on their dialects. The app further allows users to record their speech by reading out loud ‘The boy who cried wolf’ passage. This new approach is currently producing a large volume of dialect data (more than 40,000 people have participated) and thus a more comprehensive atlas of English dialects than any since the ‘Survey of English Dialects’. In this talk I will present first results on language change and discuss broader implications for language variation and change as well for forensic phonetics.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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