Mapping linguistic closeness on Exmoor

Followers of this blog will have seen a bit of an obsession with Exmoor recently.  That’s because a) it’s flipping beautiful, I mean really, have you seen it? and b) I’ve been concentrating my location hunting on Exmoor and running a little case study to see which locations from the Survey of English Dialects (Orton et al) I should include in my PhD research.

Panoramic view from Dunkery
Panoramic view from Dunkery

Having already decided that I want to include 3 key towns and their surrounding villages, I had selected Minehead, Bridgwater and Yeovil.  So, I needed to find the locations from the Survey of English Dialects (SED) that were closest to them, both geographically and linguistically.

However, political boundaries are not necessarily cultural or linguistic boundaries.  There is rarely a sudden switch in dialect between locations purely because there is an administrative divide between them.  So, I had to determine whether or not I include Parracombe, which is over the border in that there Devon, in my study.

To do this, I’ve been analysing the data contained in the isoglosses available in the Linguistic Atlas of English, which was itself based on SED data, and undertaking the long and laborious work of counting each boundary that occurs between a location.  Over 200 isoglosses and 1200 items of data later, and I had a matrix that doesn’t look entirely dissimilar to an AA Distance Chart.

On Thursday (12th March) I’ll be presenting a poster on this little case study at a multidisciplinary event in Trinity College Dublin.  To get a wider picture about the data I’m using, I’ve created this handy map.  Click on the location, and it will give you a pop up that tells you the number of ‘differences’ that location has with the other locations I reviewed.  It also gives you the chance to listen to a clip from the Survey of English Dialects from that location.

Once I’ve presented my poster – I’ll see if there’s a way I can put it up on here in some sort of ‘zoomable’ form (it’s pretty big – A0, that’s huge!).


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