Geographical Dialectology

Britain, David (2013). Geographical Dialectology. In: Holmes, Janet; Hazen, Kirk (eds.) Research Methods in Sociolinguistics (pp. 246-261). Wiley

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This chapter examines how linguists have investigated the very obvious fact that different places house different dialects. We will not look at the results of such work nor how they have been used to answer linguistic and sociolinguistic questions (see Britain 2009, in press). Here we simply examine the steps dialectologists take and have taken to conduct multi-locality research on language variation. In order to do so, five studies from different time periods are presented and critiqued, examining a number of key methodological elements in each:
1. The aim of geographical dialectology is to examine variation across space, in different places. How do dialectologists then decide which places in that space to analyse? Why choose one village and not its neighbour? Why avoid that city? This question goes to the very heart of the geographical motivation of the research.
2. What sorts of speakers will be sampled from these locations?
3. What type of data is to be collected from these speakers?
4. In what circumstances is that data to be recorded? Who will collect it, in what setting and how will the voices of the speakers be captured for later analysis?
As we will see, dialectological methodologies always involve compromises, no approach is ever flawless. Ultimately, a good number of difficult practical decisions have to be taken – how long can this research take, and what are the financial restrictions on the project? As we will see geographical dialectology is probably the most expensive and the most time consuming of all forms of language variation research.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Britain, David


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages








David Britain

Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2014 17:19

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2020 02:23


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