The International Dialects of English Archive was created in 1997 as the first online archive of primary-source recordings of English dialects and accents as heard around the world.
IDEA’s founder, director, and principal contributor is Paul Meier. He established the archive in 1997 to enable actors to hear real-life models for their characters’ accents and dialects. But IDEA has since proved invaluable in many other research fields too. For example, it has become a favorite tool of international business, helping customer-service personnel become familiar with their customers’ accents and dialects. Many actors use Meier’s
Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen, a leading stage dialects textbook, in conjunction with IDEA.
Dylan Paul is an associate editor-at-large, the Website’s principal architect, Webmaster, and special consultant.
HOW IDEA WORKS
To find an example of an accent or dialect, use the Global Map, or the Dialects and Accents tab on the menu bar. The site is also fully searchable, not just by country, state, and province, but also by characteristics of each speaker, such as ethnicity, age, and occupation; even single phrases from transcriptions and phonetics can be searched online. The text and audio files for each sample are combined on a single page; you may conveniently listen to the streaming audio while reading the accompanying transcription and commentary. All samples have one-line descriptions (gender, age, year of birth, ethnicity, location). Submission of new samples by the editors and other contributors is done entirely online.
At the heart of IDEA are the Senior Editors and the Associate Editors, forming a global network of contributors. They record the subjects, transcribe the recordings, and, in many cases, write scholarly commentary. Many editors are professors at major universities, or are members of The Voice and Speech Trainers Association, known as VASTA.
All IDEA’s recordings are in English, are of native speakers, and include both English-language dialects and English spoken in the accents of other languages. (Many include brief demonstrations of the speaker’s native language, too.) The archive also includes extensive Special Collections.
New recordings and their accompanying transcriptions and scholarly commentary are added frequently (see What’s New), and the archive currently houses more than 1,000 recordings by natives of nearly 100 different countries. Each recording includes of both a reading (
Comma Gets a Cure, or, on our earliest recordings,
The Rainbow Passage) and some unscripted speech – about four minutes in all.
The Global Map quickly reveals which countries/states/provinces have a representative sample, and those that still lack one. As you see, IDEA continues to grow, aspiring to provide a recording from every corner of the world. Please join us in this ambitious project by becoming an associate editor, or contributing your own voice to the archive.