Thursday, March 24, 2011

Calling All Voices!

The British Library wants your voice. . . the sound of your voice.

And you've only got 11 more days, including today, to open your mouth and let the syllables flow.

As part of its exhibition "Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices", on view until April 3, the library is collecting recordings of the sounds of English as it is spoken in the United Kingdom and around the world. All recordings made will go into the library's collections and be accessible to the researchers, who will map and study the recordings to try to ascertain how the English language works.

Anyone anywhere in the world who is able to read and speak English may participate in the project. The linguists request the reading of a children's story, "Mr. Tickle" by Roger Hargreaves (1935-1988), because when read aloud it produces a range of English sounds. (A more in-depth explanation is found here.) For those not so inclined to take up the story, the project allows a participant to read out loud a list of six words. Not wanting anyone to feel constrained by having to choose one or the other option, however, the project also allows the participant to both read the story and recite the list aloud.

Instructions for recording your voice are here; registration is required, and is especially easy for those with a Twitter account. Recordings may be made with a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a computer with a microphone and Internet connection. Visitors to the exhibition may take advantage of VoiceBank booths in the gallery and at participating regional libraries. (More than 10,000 people have recorded their voices.)

You may listen to others' voices mapped here (color-coded dots distinguish short-story readers from list readers). Contributions already have come in from Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, Philippines, Venezuela, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, Finland, China, South Africa, Namibia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and New Zealand.

The exhibit includes more than 130 items, including medieval illuminated manuscripts, literary manuscripts, texts of Anglo-Saxon tales, letters, advertisements, slang dictionaries, newspapers, campaign leaflets, and other documents that capture social, cultural, political, and historical influences on the English language.

Three-Level Beat-the-Clock Quiz on Origins, Evolution, and Oddities of the English Language (No Cheating!)

Evolving English Curators' Blog (There are some very interesting posts here.)

Evolving English on Twitter: Use the hashtag #evolvingenglish

Voices of the UK: Accents and Dialects of English

Resources for Schools and Colleges

"No Reason To Be Mardy About Americanisms", Guardian


Louise Gallagher said...

Okay -- that is cool!

Have you watched Deb Roy's Ted Talk on language development? He hit cameras in his house and recorded his young son's first word development -- including the evolution of the sound 'gaga' to 'water'. Really fascinating -- here's the link in case you haven't seen it and are interested.

Judith van Praag said...

What a wonderful idea, kudos for The British Library, such wealth of accents and dialects, ESL contributions included will offer great material for students of all walks of life! And you, Maureen, many thanks for the heads up! Also like Louise's comment with link to child's speaking development.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Soooo fun. I want to do it!

katdish said...

How cool!

S. Etole said...

Sounds absolutely fascinating ...

Anonymous said...

not me...i'm too shy.