British Library launches Web site of northern English accents

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



(2004), "British Library launches Web site of northern English accents", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

British Library launches Web site of northern English accents

Compiled by Monica Blake

British Library launches Web site of northern English accents

According to the British Library, regional accents are back in fashion and spoken with pride. Northern England’s rich assortment of accents and dialects are featured on a new Web site from the British Library. Visitors to the site can listen to the incredible variety of spoken English in the north, and hear the sounds and words that define the people from the area.

The site pulls together two large sound archives of northern English speakers made 50 years apart and puts them on the Web for the first time. It contains over 11 hours of recordings enabling users to hear how northerners spoke in the 1950s, and how they speak now. The words in each recording are explained so that users know what a bleb is, what bonny naught means, what luck money is and what to do with ruddle.

Ranging from football to farming, shipbuilding, steelwork, mining and much more, the interviewees discuss a huge array of subjects. They reflect not only ways of speaking but also ways of life that have changed forever, making the site a treasure trove of local and social history.

The northern recordings are just the first set of accents and dialects going on to the Web site. During 2004 further extracts covering the whole of England will go online, amounting to over 30 hours of recordings. The Web site will interest specialists and non-specialists alike and should prove invaluable to the large number of actors who currently use the British Library sound archive for research purposes.

Jonathan Robinson, Curator of English Accents and Dialects at the British Library Sound Archive, said:

  • The way people speak in northern England has changed over the last half a century. Contrary to popular belief, there is still an incredible amount of regional diversity and the recordings on this Web site illustrate elements both of continuity and of change. It has all been made possible by the fact that the British Library’s oral history holdings include two wonderful collections – the Survey of English Dialects, recorded by Leeds University in the 1950s and the Millennium Memory Bank, recorded by the BBC in 1998/1999.

The accents and dialects Web site sits within the British Library’s Collect Britain Web site, funded with money from the New Opportunities Fund. When the site is complete in September 2004 it will contain over 100,000 images and 350 hours of sound recordings.

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