The English Dialect Dictionary

Last updated

The English Dialect Dictionary (EDD) is a dictionary of English dialects, compiled by Joseph Wright (1855–1930).

Dictionary collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary, sometimes known as a wordbook, is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc. or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, sometimes known as a lexicon. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

The term dialect is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of linguistic phenomena:

Joseph Wright (linguist) British linguist

Joseph Wright FBA was an English philologist who rose from humble origins to become Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University.



The English Dialect Dictionary, being the complete vocabulary of all dialect words still in use, or known to have been in use during the last two hundred years; founded on the publications of the English Dialect Society and on a large amount of material never before printed was published by Oxford University Press in 6 volumes between 1898 and 1905. Its compilation and printing was funded privately by Joseph Wright, a self-taught philologist at the University of Oxford. Vol. 1: A-C; Vol. 2: D-G; Vol. 3: H-L; Vol. 4: M-Q; Vol. 5: R-S; Vol. 6: T-Z, supplement, bibliography and grammar. The content was issued progressively as 28 parts intended for binding into the six volumes with publication dates of 1898, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904 & 1905. Vol. 6 includes an invaluable list of writings in dialect arranged by counties.

Oxford University Press Publishing arm of the University of Oxford

Oxford University Press (OUP) is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the vice-chancellor known as the delegates of the press. They are headed by the secretary to the delegates, who serves as OUP's chief executive and as its major representative on other university bodies. Oxford University has used a similar system to oversee OUP since the 17th century. The Press is located on Walton Street, opposite Somerville College, in the suburb of Jericho.

Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics. Philology is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts as well as oral and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning. A person who pursues this kind of study is known as a philologist.

University of Oxford Collegiate research university in Oxford, England

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly called 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Due to the scale of the work, 70,000 entries, and the period in which the information was gathered, it is regarded as a standard work in the historical study of dialect. Wright marked annotations and corrections in a cut-up and rebound copy of the first edition; this copy is among Wright's papers in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. [1]

Bodleian Library main research library of the University of Oxford

The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items, it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 it is one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom, and under Irish law it is entitled to request a copy of each book published in the Republic of Ireland. Known to Oxford scholars as "Bodley" or "the Bod", it operates principally as a reference library and, in general, documents may not be removed from the reading rooms.

A digitized version of the EDD has been made available by Innsbruck University, free of charge for non-institutional, non-profit purposes. A scanned version of the work made by University of Toronto Library is currently available through the Internet Archive.

University of Toronto university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in the colony of Upper Canada, and serves as the flagship campus of the three campuses of the University of Toronto. The other two satellite campuses are located in Scarborough (UTSC) and Mississauga (UTM). Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed its present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution. As a collegiate university, it comprises eleven colleges each with substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs and significant differences in character and history.

Internet Archive US non-profit organization founded in 1996 providing free public access to archives of digital and digitized media and advocating for a free and open Internet

The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge." It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and millions of public-domain books. In addition to its archiving function, the Archive is an activist organization, advocating for a free and open Internet.

English Dialect Grammar

The sixth volume includes the English Dialect Grammar, which was also published separately. This included 16,000 dialectal forms across two main sections: 'Phonology', which gave a historical description of the development of sounds in dialect; and 'Accidence', which gave details on grammar and especially on morphology.

Among linguists, the Dialect Grammar has been criticised more than the Dialect Dictionary itself. Wright has been accused of borrowing material from the work of Alexander John Ellis that he had previously criticised. Peter Anderson claimed that Wright did Ellis a "disservice" by criticising the methods used in collecting data, but then using almost identical methods in English Dialect Grammar and taking on much of Ellis's data for his own work. [2] Both Peter Anderson and Graham Shorrocks have argued that Wright distorted Ellis's data by using a less precise phonetic notation and using vague geographical areas rather than the precise locations given by Ellis. [2] [3] Helga Koekeritz stated that Wright's information on the Suffolk dialect was almost entirely derived from Ellis, [4] and Warren Maguire has made similar comments about Wright's information on the north-east of England whilst also saying that the Grammar did introduce much new material. [5]

Alexander John Ellis English mathematician and philologist

Alexander John Ellis, was an English mathematician, philologist and early phonetician, who also influenced the field of musicology. He changed his name from his father's name Sharpe to his mother's maiden name Ellis in 1825, as a condition of receiving significant financial support from a relative on his mother's side. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

See also

Related Research Articles

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Received Pronunciation (RP), commonly called BBC English and Standard British pronunciation or Southern British pronunciation, is an accent of Standard English in the United Kingdom and is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as "the standard accent of English as spoken in the south of England", although it can be heard from native speakers throughout England and Wales. Peter Trudgill estimated in 1974 that 3 per cent of people in Britain were RP speakers, but this rough estimate has been questioned by the phonetician J. Windsor Lewis. Clive Upton notes higher estimates of 5% and 10% but refers to all these as "guestimates" that are not based on robust research.

Cockney dialect spoken by working class Londoners, especially in East End

The term cockney has had several distinct geographical, social, and linguistic associations. Originally a pejorative term applied to all city-dwellers, it was gradually restricted to Londoners, and particularly to "Bow-bell Cockneys": those born within earshot of Bow Bells, the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of the City of London. It eventually came to be used to refer to those in London's East End, or to all working-class Londoners generally.

Scots language Germanic language

Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster in Ireland. It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language which was historically restricted to most of the Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the 16th century. The Scots language developed during the Middle English period as a distinct entity.

Phonetic transcription is the visual representation of speech sounds. The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Mackem, Makem or Mak'em is the informal nickname for residents of and people from Sunderland, a city in North East England. It is also a name for the local accent ; and for a fan, whatever their origin, of Sunderland A.F.C. It has been used by the people of Sunderland to describe themselves since the 1980s, prior to which it was mainly used in Tyneside as a disparaging exonym. An alternative name for a Mackem is a Wearsider.

Yorkshire dialect dialect of English

The Yorkshire dialect is an English dialect of Northern England spoken in the English county of Yorkshire. The dialect has roots in older languages such as Old English and Old Norse. The Yorkshire Dialect Society exists to promote use of the dialect in both humour and in serious linguistics; there is also an East Riding Dialect Society.

Ojibwe language language

Ojibwe, also known as Ojibwa, Ojibway or Otchipwe, is an indigenous language of North America of the Algonquian language family. The language is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems. There is no single dialect that is considered the most prestigious or most prominent, and no standard writing system that covers all dialects.

East Anglian English dialect of English spoken in East Anglia

East Anglian English is a dialect of English spoken in East Anglia. East Anglian English has had a very considerable input into the formation of Standard English, and probably contributed to the development of American English; it has also experienced multilingualism on a remarkable scale. However, it has received little attention from the media and is not easily recognized by people from other parts of the UK. East Anglia is not easily defined as its boundaries are not uniformly agreed upon.

Dialectology is the scientific study of linguistic dialect, a sub-field of sociolinguistics. It studies variations in language based primarily on geographic distribution and their associated features. Dialectology treats such topics as divergence of two local dialects from a common ancestor and synchronic variation.

Wiradjuri language traditional language of the Wiradjuri people of Australia

Wiradjuri is a Pama–Nyungan language of the Wiradhuric subgroup. It is the traditional language of the Wiradjuri people of Australia. A progressive revival is underway, with the language being taught in schools. Wiraiari and Jeithi may have been dialects.

In English phonology, t-glottalization or t-glottaling is a sound change in certain English dialects and accents that causes the phoneme to be pronounced as the glottal stop (listen) in certain positions. It is never universal, especially in careful speech, and it most often alternates with other allophones of such as [t] ,, ,, or.

Harold Orton was a Dialectologist and Professor of English Language and Medieval Literature at the University of Leeds.

Survey of English Dialects British dialect survey of England and Wales

The Survey of English Dialects was undertaken between 1950 and 1961 under the direction of Professor Harold Orton of the English department of the University of Leeds. It aimed to collect the full range of speech in England and Wales before local differences were to disappear. Standardisation of the English language was expected with the post-war increase in social mobility and the spread of the mass media. The project originated in discussions between Professor Orton and Professor Eugen Dieth of the University of Zurich about the desirability of producing a linguistic atlas of England in 1946, and a questionnaire containing 1,300 questions was devised between 1947 and 1952.

In historical linguistics, the Germanic parent language (GPL) includes the reconstructed languages in the Germanic group referred to as Pre-Germanic Indo-European (PreGmc), Early Proto-Germanic (EPGmc), and Late Proto-Germanic (LPGmc), spoken in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC.

The Dialect Test was created by A.J. Ellis in February 1879, and was used in the fieldwork for his work On Early English Pronunciation. It stands as one of the earliest methods of identifying vowel sounds and features of speech. The aim was to capture the main vowel sounds of an individual dialect by listening to the reading of a short passage. All the categories of West Saxon words and vowels were included in the test so that comparisons could be made with the historic West Saxon speech as well as with various other dialects.

The Northumbrian burr is the distinctive uvular pronunciation of R in the traditional dialects of Northumberland, Tyneside ('Geordie'), and northern County Durham, but it is now prevalent only in the older residents of rural Northumberland.

Richard M. Hogg was a Scottish linguist who was well known for his research on Old English, phonology, and English dialects. He received his Ph.D. from Edinburgh University in 1975 under the supervision of Angus McIntosh and John Anderson. He was initially a lecturer in English at the University of Amsterdam from 1969-1973, then taught at the University of Lancaster; from 1980 until his death in 2007 he was Smith Professor of English Language and Medieval Literature at the University of Manchester. He served as dean of the arts faculty at Manchester from 1990 to 1993.


  1. Stevenson, Jane. "Features". Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  2. 1 2 Anderson, Peter M. 1977. "A New Light on Early English Pronunciation". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society part 77, vol. 14.32-41.
  3. A. J. ELLIS AS DIALECTOLOGIST: A REASSESSMENT, Historiographia Linguistica 18:2-3 (1991), page 324
  4. Helga Koekeritz, Phonology of the Suffolk Dialect, Uppsala, 1932, page vii as quoted in Peter Anderson (1977)
  5. Maguire, Warren (August 2003). ""Mr. A. J. Ellis – the pioneer of scientific phonetics in England" (Sweet 1877, vii): an examination of Ellis's data from the northeast of England" (PDF). University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 4 March 2017. I examined first the relatively accessible Wright (1905), but soon realised that most (perhaps all) of Wright's data for the north-east is derived from Ellis (1889).