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The Brotherton Library

The Special Collections department of the library holds a substantial amount of material relating to Yorkshire dialect, much of which was published in the last century and earlier. For example, there is a large selection of local Yorkshire almanacs, bound copies of all back issues of Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, and a collection of John Hartley’s Yorkshire Tales.

Archive material incorporates a large number documents and manuscripts formerly held by the University's Institute of Dialect and Folk-Life Studies. Included are the original fieldworkers’ notebooks completed during the Survey Of English Dialects (SED), and a selection of both MA and PhD theses. Sound recordings of the SED and any relevant cassettes associated with the dissertations are at present mainly held by the School of English.

Photocopies of SED fieldworkers’ notebooks are also held at The National Centre for English Cultural Traditional (NATCECT), University of Sheffield.

Further details relating to Special Collections may be obtained by connecting to the department’s web page.

Appointments to visit can be made by telephoning General Enquiries (0113 2335518) or by sending an e-mail. Seven days notice would be appreciated.



The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture

This is a new three-year project which commenced in June 2002. The aim is to construct a web-based archive of "speech, customs, beliefs and practices of traditional English communities". Further details can be obtained by connecting to their website.


The Survey of Regional English (SuRE)

The purpose of SuRE, a combined project proposed by the universities of Leeds and Sheffield, is to conduct a detailed study of English dialects as they exist at the turn of the century. The intention is to obtain recordings of examples of informal speech for analysis in terms of phonology, grammar and lexis.

Essentially, subject to funding, the survey is to consist of two strands: firstly, a relatively short-term in-depth study of dialect across a network of predetermined locations within England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire; secondly, a simpler but ongoing investigation with data being supplied, on a continuing basis, by linguistic fieldworkers wherever, whenever and whatever they are studying.

In recording the information thus accumulated, full use will be made of the present levels and capabilities of Information Technology. The outcome will be a substantial computerized linguistic database which will be available to not only those individuals involved in its creation but to future generations of linguists.

Collection of Data

A fresh approach is to be taken regarding the collection of data. It is intended that information should be obtained by using socially paired informants. Rather than employing an interviewing style, the fieldworker will encourage discussion of the dialect words so that the interaction will be more in the form of a casual conversation.

Central to this new method of data collection are a number of forms; Sense Related Network sheets (SRNs) and an Identification Questionnaire (IdQ).



There are three versions of this form covering different networks of interrelated words. All have been designed to be visually pleasing and "user-friendly" so that participants will actually want to fill them in. The informants are given the SRNs five days prior to the interview to allow them ample opportunity to consider the dialect words they use. These words are entered in the spaces provided on the form.

The SRNs are also a means of promoting informal discussion, providing an opportunity to record a spoken version of the informants’ responses and giving rise to the possible occurrence of lexical items not included in the forms themselves.


The IdQ

Used in conjunction with the above-mentioned forms, this questionnaire contains fifteen questions designed to evoke, relative to the SRNs, a comparatively protracted response. Primarily, the purpose of the IdQ is to obtain information concerning participants’ attitudes to language and identity, but it also provides a safeguard against minimal responses to the SRNs.


Under Consideration

Some thought is being given to the employment of:

  • the use of word or sentence lists. These would provide control of phonological features and assist in the study of stylistic variation.
  • the introduction of a more formal grammatical element similar to the questionnaire employed in the Survey of British Dialect Grammar.


The Current Position

Funding is still been sought for this project. However, some progress has been made; Carmen Llamas has completed Middlesbrough and work has started in relation to Southampton (Kate Wallace) and the Black Country (Esther Asprey). The field is open for other interested researchers to take part in a new and challenging initiative.




Further Information

Further information about this project may be obtained by e-mail. from:

Dr Clive Upton
School of English
University of Leeds




Kerswill, P., Llamas, C. and Upton, C. (1998) The first Sure moves: early steps towards a large dialect database. In Clive Upton and Katie Wales (eds), Dialectal Variation in English: Proceedings of the Harold Orton Centenary Conference 1998. Leeds Studies in English Vol. 30, 1999