Dr Fiona Douglas to lead national dialect and heritage project

Dialect and Heritage: the State of the Nation.

A National Lottery grant is allowing the University of Leeds to update the most comprehensive survey of the dialects of England ever undertaken.

Do you 'mash', 'make', 'mask' or 'scald' your tea? Do you ask for 'scraps', 'craps', 'bits' or 'scratchings' at a fish and chip shop? Would you call someone acting strangely 'daft', 'silly', 'gormless' or 'barmy'?

Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a new project will soon be asking these questions all across England. Dialect and Heritage: the State of the Nation, led by Dr Fiona Douglas (Lecturer in English Language), has been awarded £65,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is in the running for a full grant of £798,000.

The four-year project will open to the public the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture, which represents some of the most extensive and detailed dialect work ever conducted. It contains records and artefacts relating to more than 300 English dialects and the traditions and lifestyles of their speakers, including audio recordings, photographs, newspaper cuttings, hand-drawn diagrams of tools and farming devices, pronunciations for thousands of dialectal terms, and word maps tracking boundaries for the use of different words.

The contents of the archive will be made publicly available online for the first time, and five partner museums - Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire, Dales Countryside Museum and Ryedale Folk Museum in North Yorkshire, Suffolk’s Museum of East Anglian Life, and Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex - will display items relevant to their local area.

The project will also continue the work of the Survey of English Dialects, which saw fieldworkers travel around England from 1946-1978 recording the language and lifestyles of hundreds of different people, and which contributed to the formation of the Leeds Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies. The researchers aim to record present-day dialects, memories and cultural information from descendants of participants in the original survey, so if this applies to you please get in touch.

Dr Douglas said of the project, "This is a fantastic opportunity to take language and heritage back to the communities it came from – and where it truly belongs."

"We will be able to help people uncover their own dialect inheritance and cultural heritage and invite them to add their own memories, language, and stories for the benefit of current and future generations. Dialect and heritage are incredibly important today, just as they were in the past, and they belong to all of us."