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Athens, Georgia
Preserving a National Treasure: Spoken American English
Preserving a National Treasure

Student employees of the Linguistic Atlas Project learn valuable research skills while supporting their education.
Image courtesy of the Linguistic Atlas Project.

Bill Kretzschmar, editor of the Linguistic Atlas Project (LAP), describes himself as the “guardian of a national treasure”: decades worth of research on spoken American English in all its regionalisms and variety, much of it in audio form. As early as 1929, researchers began harvesting words by traveling the country and listening as Americans spoke about their lives, describing their homes, beliefs, families, and regions in exhaustive detail. Cumulatively, their work makes up a massive archive—a first-hand account of rural and urban American life, one that puts to rest the notion that there is any single way of speaking American English. Because many interviewees were older Americans, their oral histories record memories dating as far back as the Civil War.”

“[The Linguistic Atlas Project] gives individuals the chance to see language in a much broader view than they ever could by themselves.”
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