There are about 200 countries in the world. The number fluctuates, of course, as sovereignty and statehood are always in contention, and that doesn’t include territories.
About 6,900 different languages are spoken in those countries.
Of course, “language” is also a contentious term, and we remember the wise saying, attributed to Max Weinreich, a leading Yiddish linguist: “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.”
However we define the terms, the sounds of human speech are almost infinite in their variety, and so the variety of accents and dialects of spoken English is similarly almost infinite.
IDEA’s mission is to document as many of those thousands of English accents and dialects as possible. It’s a huge task, and we have only scratched the surface! For example, of the 60 or so African nations, we have samples from only 22.
Today, IDEA’s roughly 1,600 samples represent about 100 of the world’s 200 or so countries. (When you add territories, the number of places that IDEA represents jumps to 135.) Impressive for an all-volunteer organization. And for many of those countries, we can boast multiple samples. For instance, we have around 100 samples from China and England, more than 30 from New York, 38 from Ontario, and more than 50 from South Africa.
Use the Accents and Dialects drop-down menu to review our holdings, or use the search function to explore the archive.
But to see at a glance what the archive still needs, see our Global Map, or consult our top priorities (the samples we desire the most) below, and then please help us plug the gaps. In addition to the areas listed below, we’re constantly seeking recordings of underrepresented cultures, age groups, ethnicities, and races. See Submissions to find out how you can help.
1. Subjects anywhere in the world who speak an endangered language and/or dialect
2. Northern Africa (Libya, Morocco, Niger, Chad, etc.)
3. African-American subjects throughout the United States
4. Delaware (North America, United States)
5. Eastern Oregon and Washington (North America, United States)
6. Central and eastern Russia (Asia), particularly Siberia
7. Southern end of Arabian peninsula in the Middle East (Yemen, Oman, and UAE)
8. Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories (North America, Canada)
9. Labrador (North America, Canada)
10. Far western China (Asia), particularly samples of elderly subjects
11. Indonesia (Asia)
12. Zambia (Africa)
13. Namibia (Africa)
14. Northwestern Mexico, the Baja and near the U.S. border (North America, Mexico)
15. Yucatan Peninsula (North America, Mexico)
16. French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana (South America)
17. Bosnia and Herzegovina (Europe)