Dictionary of American Regional English Questionnaire

The Dictionary of American Regional English describes itself this way:

"The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a reference tool unlike any other. Its aim is not to prescribe how Americans should speak, or even to describe the language we use generally, the 'standard' language. Instead, it seeks to document the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the United States—those words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary from one region to another, that we learn at home rather than at school, or that are part of our oral rather than our written culture. Although American English is remarkably homogeneous considering the tremendous size of the country, there are still many thousands of differences that characterize the various dialect regions of the United States. It is these differences that DARE records."

Visit the DARE website at http://dare.wisc.edu/ and visit the "Sample" link. You can see 100 sample entries; take a look, for example, at the sample entry on "dropped egg."

Researchers from the DARE project interviewed local informants in all 50 states using 1,847 questions in a standard questionnaire. Graduate students fanned out from Madison, Wisconsin in specially-equipped vans to destinations all over the United States. Typically they looked for older residents who lived their entire lives in one area. The information they gathered gives a fascinating picture of the diversity of spoken English across the country.

This exercise is modeled after the information-gathering questionnaire used by the DARE researchers. Click the thumbnail below to download a pdf with just 40 of those questions. Ask an older acquaintance, such as a grandparent or someone else from that generation, and record their answers and any interesting phonetic aspects of those answers. Don't worry if you have to leave some of them blank. [Update November 2016: you do not have to interview anyone. Just look carefully through the questions.]