English Dialect Survey

Quick Reference

The result of the sustained enthusiasm and effort of two linguists, Harold Orton (1898–1975) and Eugen Dieth (1893–1956). When Orton was appointed to the Chair of English Language and Medieval Literature at Leeds University in 1947, it provided them with a base from which to launch an ambitious survey of the dialects of England, designed to amass an archive of accurate and authentic data, and to provide material for the publication of a linguistic atlas. Aware of the limitations of previous work on dialect in England, they used trained fieldworkers, standard questionnaires, and professional dialectological principles, and between 1948 and 1961 the team conducted fieldwork in 313 rural locations. The ‘Survey of English Dialects’ was the name of the publishing programme launched in 1962, which published a number of books of findings in tabular form, and the cherished The Linguistic Atlas of England, edited by Harold Orton, Stewart Sanderson, and John Widdowson, in 1978. Other atlases based on the Survey material followed. In addition to the collecting and publishing, Orton was instrumental in forging dialect studies into an academic discipline, and more than 100 student theses on dialect were completed at Leeds University in his time. He retired in September 1964, although he continued to play an active part in the publication programme, and having laid the foundations of what became in October that year the Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies under the direction of Stewart Sanderson.Harold Orton, ‘How We Say and What We Play’, The Village 8:1 (1953), 26–31; Craig Fees. The Imperilled Inheritance: Dialect and Folklife Studies at the University of Leeds 1946–1962 (1991); S. F. Sanderson, ‘Folklore Material in the English Dialect Survey’, Folklore 83 (1972), 89–100.

Reference entries