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. Welcome to the redesigned 2012 Website. Please bookmark us at this, our new Web address.
IDEA’s founder, director, and principal contributor is Professor 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 principal tool of international business, enabling customer-service personnel to become familiar with the many accents and dialects of English spoken by their customers. Paul Meier Dialect Services was established to make Meier’s work more widely available, and his book,
Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen, a leading publication in the field, is available there.
Dylan Paul serves IDEA as an associate editor-at-large, is the principal architect in IDEA’s redesign and standardization, and continues to play an active role in IDEA as the archive’s webmaster and special consultant.
Cameron Meier is the senior editor for IDEA and vice president of Paul Meier Dialect Services.
The redesigned archive is the result of hundreds of volunteer hours of work performed chiefly by Dylan Paul and Cameron Meier. We are also grateful to the following associate editors who also contributed many hours reformatting files: Lynn Baker, Cynthia Blaise, John Fleming, John Graham, Jim Johnson, Julia Lenardon, Bill McCann, and David Nevell.
The new site is now 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 have been standardized and combined on a single page, allowing users to easily listen to the streaming audio while they read the accompanying transcription and commentary. Information from the old site has been thoroughly checked and rechecked to assure greater accuracy, and each one-line description (gender, age, year of birth, ethnicity, location) is currently being rewritten to better reflect the sample it describes. In addition, Submission of new samples by the editors and other contributors has been greatly simplified and, from now on, will be accomplished entirely online.
The Founding Webmaster Emeritus for the archive is Shawn Muller, who designed the first Website for IDEA in 1997. His robust, simple design served the project well for more than fourteen years. Thank you, Shawn!
At the heart of IDEA are its Associate Editors, forming a global network of contributors. It is they who record the subjects, transcribe the recordings, and, in many cases, write scholarly commentary, and publish their work here. Many of them are professors of theatre and linguistics at major universities around the world, and 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 separate files. The samples demonstrate how English is spoken by natives of 90 different countries. Each recording consists of a standard reading passage (Comma Gets a Cure, or, on our earliest recordings, The Rainbow Passage) and some unscripted speech – about four minutes in all.
A glance at our Global Map (an exciting feature new to the redesigned site) quickly reveals which of the world’s countries/states/provinces are represented in the archive, and those still lacking a representative sample. (Please bear with us as the “geo-tagging” of samples is ongoing.) As you will see, IDEA is still growing, attempting to catalogue a representative sample from every corner of the world. Please join us in this ambitious project by becoming an associate editor, or by simply contributing your own voice to the archive.