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Survey of English Dialects

'Trailing' for bonfire wood, Castle Bolton, North Yorkshire (1967)

The Survey of English Dialects (SED)
Originally initiated by Harold Orton and fellow dialectologist, Eugen Dieth (University of Switzerland) in the 1930s, the interruption of the Second World War meant that the Survey of English Dialects (SED) was eventually undertaken between 1951 and 1961 under the direction of Orton, then Professor at the University of Leeds.   Crucially this was following and during a period of increased social and geographical mobility and increased influence of broadcast media, that would both inevitably impact on the dialect landscape of England. It became one of the most extensive and detailed dialects studies ever undertaken, with fieldworkers travelling to 313 localities, selecting hundreds of informants to provide responses to the questionnaire’s 1092 questions. The subsequent decision (in 1952) to also start recording samples of informants' casual speech/conversation resulted in a wealth or recordings capturing not only the language but also the traditions and lifestyles of informants in those localities.

A publication programme followed (1962-1971) with the incremental publication of an Introduction (1962) and 12 volumes Basic Materials detailing the results and analyses for each locations. However Orton and Dieth’s original goal of producing a Linguistic Atlas of England wouldn’t be realised as part of this until subsequent funding resulted in its publication 1978, - 3 years after Orton’s death.