The Survey of English Dialects (SED), the only nationwide survey of English dialects, was conducted during the 1950s under the direction of Professor Harold Orton. SED was basically a questionnaire-based survey of traditional dialects in England. The network of localities where the survey was conducted consists of 313 villages in rural England. The results of the questionnaire survey have been published in an unanalysed form in Orton et al (1962-1971). As has often been noted (see e.g. Ihalainen & Klemola, 1994), the SED questionnaire was not planned within any coherent or comprehensive framework of morphosyntax, and thus the SED Basic Material is not really suitable for serious study of dialectal morphosyntax. In addition to the questionnaire survey, however, tape-recorded interviews were also conducted in most of the localities. These tape-recordings are now held in the University of Leeds School of English; they have never been analysed or edited in any systematic way.
The SED tape-recordings are a unique repository of data on traditional dialects of England in the mid-20th century. They form the only existing systematic tape-recorded corpus of data on English dialects in England. The recordings were made by the SED fieldworkers, in particular by Stanley Ellis. Juhani Klemola has recently completed a Leverhulme Trust -funded project, the aim of which was to transcribe and edit the SED tape-recordings for scholarly use. The corpus will be published by Routledge on CD-ROMS as The Survey of English Dialects on CD-ROM: The Spoken Corpus Recorded in England 1948-1961 (Klemola et al, forthcoming). The Corpus consists of transcripts of 314 recordings from 289 (out of the 313) SED localities in England aligned with the tape-recordings. The size of the corpus in terms of hours is 65 hours, and in running words ca. 800.000 words.
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