The Ihalainen Somerset Corpus

Ossi Ihalainen visited Somerset between the years 1971 and 1977 and returned in the early 1980s to re-interview some important informants. The recordings of the present corpus were made in 1971-1976. Ihalainen's notebooks mainly contain the names, addresses, ages and occupations of the informants, but he has described some of them (e.g. JM, Fitzhead) in more detail in his publications. Ihalainen characterises his informants and the interviews as follows:

"By calling my informants speakers of the Somerset dialect I simply mean that they were born and bred in Somerset and that their speech shows a number of common features frequently heard in Somerset. Furthermore, those features clearly distinguish my informants' language from Standard English." (Ihalainen 1980: 187.)

"The interviews are free in form. The informants, members all of small agricultural communities, were asked to tell about their everyday activities, such as haymaking, harvesting, tending horses, selling and buying cattle, slaughtering, fishing, catching rabbits, digging peat, social activities, etc." (Ihalainen 1976: 608.)

The corpus

Map of Somerset and the localities visited.
1 Exford 7 Holford 13 Isle Abbots 19 Stogursey (SED) 25 Merriott (SED)
2 Wootton Courtenay (also SED) 8 Cannington 14 Hambridge 20 Withypool (SED)  
3 Luxborough 9 Trull 15 Kingsbury Episcopi 21 Brompton Regis  
4 Fitzhead 10 Wedmore (also SED) 16 Weston (SED) 22 Stoke St Gregory (SED)  
5 Bishop's Lydeard 11 Westhay 17 Blagdon (SED) 23 Horsington (SED)  
6 Stogumber (also SED) 12 Meare 18 Coleford (SED) 24 Pitminster (SED)  

Sample #1

J.M. from Fitzhead.
Recorded in 1972.
Age, sex: 80, male.
Occupation: Farmworker.
Description: J.M. tells about poaching and of the time he was wrongfully accused of killing a stag.

Course, I'd just shot a rabbit and pick 'en up an' all to once I heard something rush back in the he- = in the hedge. It was a great old wide hedge an' there was a big stag looking to me. Oh, I happen = pulled 'en, nothin' happened...

According to Ihalainen, J.M. speaks "West Somerset", but his variety of English is very representative of the Somerset vernacular in general (Ihalainen 1987: 72-73).

Download the sound clip by right-clicking here and choosing Save As from the menu. MP3 2:00 1,83mb.

Sample #2

L.V. from Wedmore.
Recorded in 1974.
Age, sex: 69, male.
Occupation: Farmer.
Description: L.V. tells about horse-tending.

Well, when a colt 's born, you don't do anything to him = no more than just put a halter on 'en an' break 'en to what we call the halter; that is lead it, be able to lead 'im about until he do come about two years old an' then you really break 'im in. First of all, you put in his mouth the bit, the bridle an' the bit...

L.V.:s speech was investigated in "Stressed vowels in East Somerset: an Acoustic-Phonetic Case Study", a study conducted by Terttu Nevalainen and Reijo Aulanko (Nevalainen & Aulanko 1996).

Download the sound clip by right-clicking here and choosing Save As from the menu. MP3 1:43 1,57mb.