Word Geography of England and Deutscher Wortatlas - A Comparison

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2001

24 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. An Introduction to the Survey of English Dialects (SED) and the Deutscher Sprachatlas (DSA)

3. The Methodology of the Survey of English Dialects (SED) and the Deutscher Wortatlas (DWA)
3.1 The method of data collection
3.2. The sampling
3.3. The questionnaires
3.4. The actual data collection

4. The Publication of the Findings
4.1. How are the atlases organized?
4.2. Which format of presentation was chosen?
4.3. Which items were mapped?
4.4. How are the localities presented?
4.5. How are the collected items presented?

5. Concluding remarks – Advantages and Disadvantages of the Word Geography of England and the Deutscher Wortatlas

6. References

1. Introduction

“Harold Orton often told us that it was the eleventh hour, that dialect was rapidly disappearing, and that this [the Survey of English Dialects] was a last-minute exercise to scoop out the last remaining vestige of dialect before it died out under the pressure of modern movement and communication”.

(Stanley Ellis, In: Rawling, p.1)

As Stanley Ellis, one of Harold Orton's colleagues in the Survey of English Dialects, points out in this quote, English linguists became aware in the 1950s that it was high time for a long-term dialect survey in their home country. Orton, the initiator of the Survey of English Dialects, knew that the modern means of communication, the increasing urbanisation and the decreasing number of those informants who were still untouched by modernisation, would soon make it impossible to collect authentic data of English dialects. So they started work as soon as possible. Later, a number of English dialect atlases were brought out on the basis of the SED; among them the lexicon-based Word Geography of England by Harold Orton and Nathalia Wright.

When the German linguist Georg Wenker carried out his first dialect surveys in Germany in the 1890s, the problem of modernisation was not as significant as it was 60 years later. Wenker's motivation rather was to find clear dialect boundaries in Germany and later in the entire German speaking area. With his far-reaching survey, the Deutscher Sprachatlas, Wenker laid the foundation of German dialectology, causing many linguists to adopt his example in the following years. One of these linguists was Walther Mitzka who published the first lexical dialect atlas for the German speaking area, namely the Deutscher Wortatlas.

The aim of the following essay will be to compare the WGE and the DWA. The comparison will be carried out, firstly, with regard to the methodology of the surveys which provided the data for the atlases, and, secondly, with regard to the actual publications, i.e. the WGE and the DWA themselves. In order to make the comparison comprehensible for the reader I have added some material from the atlases to the appendix. Furthermore, a table which lists the differences between the DWA and the WGE in short form, is added. Finally, the appendix includes a newspaper article which describes the data collection of the SED in York.

In the course of my investigations for the essay the problem occurred that the authors I have cited do not agree in all points. For example, the actual number of localities, which were visited for the SED, or which questions were asked for the DWA. Consequently, I decided to contact Clive Upton from the University of Leeds, who had published the Word Maps: A Dialect Atlas of England in 1987 (together with his colleagues Sanderson and Widdowson) and thus was supposed to be in touch with the SED and to know more about it. In order to cast some light into the methodology of the DWA, I contacted Wolfgang Näser who works for the Deutscher Sprachatlas in Marburg, the origin of the DWA. These emails are also added to the appendix.

2. An Introduction To The Survey Of English Dialects (SED) And The Deutscher Sprachatlas (DSA)

According to Francis, the Word Geography of England represents a secondary dialect atlas, as it handles data which has already been made available in its original form (1983: 132). In the case of the WGE, all the material which was used for the publication of the atlas derives from the Survey of English Dialects. This survey started in 1948 and was carried out in whole England. Its two initiators were the English linguist Harold Orton and his Swiss colleague Eugen Dieth.

In 1946 Eugen Dieth, Professor of English Language at the University of Zurich, decided to bring out a British dialect atlas – a decision which came quite late compared to other European countries*. Harold Orton from the Department of English Language and Medieval English Literature at the University of Leeds offered himself as a partner for Dieth’s project. Yet, due to the planned Linguistic Survey of Scotland, they decided not to investigate the dialects of whole Britain – as intended before – but only of England (Davis 1983: 49).

In 1948 the trialling of the questionnaire began (Upton, email) and two years later the fieldwork started (Davis 1983: 49; Rawling, p.1). It was carried out by 9 trained fieldworkers (Davis 1983: 49; Orton/Wright 1974: 1), generally students of English Philology, and was finished in 1961.

Dieth’s and Orton’s aim concerning the SED was “the compilation of a comprehensive atlas of dialectal English” (Orton/Wright 1974: 1). In order to touch all linguistically relevant aspects of dialectal differences, they included phonological, syntactical, morphological and lexical questions in their questionnaires.

When in 1961 the fieldwork for the SED was finished, plans for the publication of the collected data were made. The original idea was to publish all the answers to the questionnaire, incidental material, and phonetic transcriptions of the tape-recordings in list form, followed by a Linguistic Atlas of England (Fischer/Ammann, pp. 9). However, only an Introduction (1962) and the Basic Material (more than 44,000 items of information; 1962-71) were brought out as planned (Fischer/Ammann 1991: 11; Orton/Wright 1974: 2). Instead of one dialect atlas of England, six different, but often parallel and overlapping atlases were published. These are the following ones:

- Kolb: Phonological Atlas of the Northern Region (PA, 1966)
- Orton & Wright: A Word Geography of England (WGE, 1974)
- Orton, Sanderson & Widdowson: The Linguistic Atlas of England (LAE, 1978)
- Kolb et al.: Atlas of English Sounds (AES, 1979)
- Upton, Sanderson & Widdowson: Word Maps: A Dialect Atlas of England (WM, 1987)
- Viereck: The Computer Developed Linguistic Atlas of England (CLAE, 1990)

(Fischer/Ammann 1991: 12)

Neither the incidental material nor the phonetic transcriptions have been published so far.

In contrast to the WGE, which took data from the SED, the Deutscher Wortatlas was merely based on ideas from another dialect atlas, namely the Deutscher Sprachatlas. The DSA was the result of the first large-scale dialect survey in Germany and still is the most significant German dialect work. Many German dialect atlases or lists - among them the Deutscher Wortatlas - refer to the DSA - either to the methodology of the survey or to the collected linguistic material. As Wiegand points out, “its [the DWA’s] conception – concerning the mapping procedures, the network of localities, the method of questioning, the selection of informants etc. – depends on the DSA to a great extent” (1971: 34-35).

The Deutscher Sprachatlas goes back to the linguist Georg Wenker. His interest in German dialects gave him the idea of a dialect survey in order to work out clear dialect boundaries (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 55). However, in contrast to Orton and Dieth he was interested only in the sound differences between single dialects and not in other linguistic aspects such as morphology, syntax or lexicon (Löffler 1980: 27).

After having conducted a few smaller dialect surveys in particular German regions, Wenker started his work for the DSA in 1887 by sending out questionnaires to more than 40,000 localities of the entire German Reich (“Geschichte und Ergebnisse”, p. 1; Niebaum/Macha 1999: 56). These questionnaires contained so-called “Wenker sentences” which included vocabulary that was expected to provide many dialectal variations in sound. These sentences were one of Wenker's methodological approaches which are still used in German dialectology nowadays (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 56). In the following some of these "Wenker sentences" are listed:

- He has died four or six weeks ago. (Er ist vor vier oder sechs Wochen gestorben.)
- He used to eat eggs without salt and pepper . (Er isst die Eier immer ohne Salz und Pfeffer.)
- Who has stolen my basket with meat? (Wer hat mir meinen Korb mit Fleisch gestohlen?)

(Niebaum/Macha 1999: 59)

When the investigations in the whole German Reich were finished in 1895, altogether 48,500 answered questionnaires were returned (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 57). The mapping of the collected data took until 1923 and resulted in 339 words mapped on 1,646 single maps (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 58). Between 1927 and 1956 then a part of these maps was published as Deutscher Sprachatlas (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 58; “Geschichte und Ergebnisse”, p. 1), divided into 23 volumes (Löffler 1980: 28). The DSA consists of 129 above all phonological, but also morphological and lexical maps (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 58).

One of the linguists who became inspired by the DSA was Walther Mitzka – the initiator of the Deutscher Wortatlas. The idea to publish a German dialect atlas which focussed on lexical aspects already occurred when Wenker and his colleagues edited the data of the DSA. They noticed that several localities did not only pronounce some words in the questionnaire differently, but that they even used totally different words to express one and the same thing. For example, it turned out that the term Pferd (‘horse’) was not used in all areas. In the Swabian dialect people called it Gaul (‘nag’) in contrast to Roß (‘steed’) in Bavaria (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 60; Löffler 1980: 29). Therefore, Walther Mitzka decided to carry out a new survey which would deal exclusively with the lexicon of German dialects. In 1939 he sent out his questionnaires, resulting in 48,381 responses (Mitzka 1951: Einführung). The publication of Mitzka’s Deutscher Wortatlas started in 1951 and ended in 1980 with volume 21 and 22, including an index of localities and additional maps (Niebaum/Macha 1999: 63).


* In 1887 the German linguist Wenker started his first dialect surveys in Germany already, followed by Gilliéron’s and Edmont’s “Atlas Linguistique de la France” in 1897, and Jaberg’s and Jud’s “Sprach- und Sachtalas Italiens und der Südschweiz” which was published immediately after the First World War (Fischer/Ammann, p. 9).

Excerpt out of 24 pages


Word Geography of England and Deutscher Wortatlas - A Comparison
University of Leipzig  (Anglistics)
English Dialects and Dialectology
1,0 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
486 KB
Word, Geography, England, Deutscher, Wortatlas, Comparison, English, Dialects, Dialectology
Quote paper
Alena Friedrich (Author), 2001, Word Geography of England and Deutscher Wortatlas - A Comparison, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/14483


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