British Library Acquires Major Sound Collection Of Welsh Dialects

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 22 July 2008
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© The British Library

The British Library Sound Archive has acquired the audio recordings of the Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects (SAWD), a unique, in-depth investigation into the local vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar of English in Wales.

The collection of 500 audio recordings, donated to the British Library by Dr Robert Penhallurick, Reader in English at the University of Wales, represents an important addition to the British Library’s extensive accents and dialects resources and joins the library’s impressive Survey of English Dialects.

Founded and directed by dialectologist David Parry, the SAWD is the only national survey of spoken English in Wales. Between the mid 1960s and early 1990s fieldworkers for the project sought to record the oldest living varieties of folk-speech by interviewing speakers on topics including the farm and farming, the house and housekeeping, nature, animals, social activities and the weather.

Elderly informants were interviewed and tape-recorded in a network of 90 localities throughout rural Wales and speakers were encouraged to use their most natural form of English speech.

It reflects not only ways of speaking but also ways of life that have changed forever, making the collection a treasure trove of local and social history. The collection also includes recordings made for the second, urban phase of the project, collected between 1985 and 1991 in Cardiff, Caernarfon, Wrexham, Carmarthen, and Swansea.

The full collection of recordings is now available for researchers at the British Library. Six recordings from the Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects have also been made available online, supplemented with transcripts and scholarly commentary, at Sounds Familiar the British Library’s interactive, educational website that celebrates and explores spoken English across the UK.

Details of the recordings are available on the BL Sound Archive online catalogue and the recordings are now available through the Listening and Viewing Service at the British Library’s St Pancras site.

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