Documenting sound change with smartphone apps

Britain, David; Leemann, A; Kolly, Marie-Jose; Purves, R; Glaser, E (2015). Documenting sound change with smartphone apps. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 137(4), p. 2304. AIP Publishing 10.1121/1.4920412

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Crowdsourcing linguistic phenomena with smartphone applications is relatively new. Apps have been used to train acoustic models for automatic speech recognition (de Vries et al. 2014) and to archive endangered languages (Iwaidja Inyaman Team 2012). Leemann and Kolly (2013) developed a free app for iOS—Dialäkt Äpp (DÄ) (>78k downloads)—to document language change in Swiss German. Here, we present results of sound change based on DÄ data. DÄ predicts the users’ dialects: for 16 variables, users select their dialectal variant. DÄ then tells users which dialect they speak. Underlying this prediction are maps from the Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland (SDS, 1962-2003), which documents the linguistic situation around 1950. If predicted wrongly, users indicate their actual dialect. With this information, the 16 variables can be assessed for language change. Results revealed robustness of phonetic variables; lexical and morphological variables were more prone to change. Phonetic variables like to lift (variants: /lupfə, lʏpfə, lipfə/) revealed SDS agreement scores of nearly 85%, i.e., little sound change. Not all phonetic variables are equally robust: ladle (variants: /xælə, xællə, xæuə, xæɫə, xæɫɫə/) exhibited significant sound change. We will illustrate the results using maps that show details of the sound changes at hand.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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




AIP Publishing




Leona Josefine Irmgard Goop

Date Deposited:

11 Feb 2016 11:14

Last Modified:

29 Jan 2019 13:37

Publisher DOI:



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