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The Archive of Welsh English is a unique collection of audio recordings and transcriptions of the dialects of English in Wales. Most of the recordings were made in the 1970s and 1980s for the Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects, or SAWD. SAWD was directed by the dialectologist and language scholar, David Parry, and you can access his history of the Survey by clicking on Story of SAWD in the Contents pane at the left of this page. You can also access the Catalogue which gives details of the recordings and transcriptions held in the Archive. This website gives an overview of the Archive and SAWD.

Cowshed Map sml

SAWD was begun in October, 1968, and was conceived as an investigation into the English speech of Wales in the tradition of Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary (1898-1905) and Harold Orton’s Survey of English Dialects (SED). During the following decades, until David Parry’s retirement in 1995, student fieldworkers trained by him travelled to all parts of Wales to interview and record speakers of Welsh English. See the Map of localities for the network of places visited in the first phase of SAWD.

Rural Wales was the focus of the first part of the Survey. Elderly speakers were sought, who  had spent little or no time living away from their village. The fieldworkers used a questionnaire resembling closely the one prepared for the SED, with the aim of making direct comparison between the material collected in England and in Wales – an aim achieved subsequently by David Parry in his publications. See the map to the right for an example. For a full list of SAWD-related publications, click on Bibliography in the Contents pane.

Informants were encouraged to use their most natural form of English speech and the interviews were unscripted and unrehearsed, although, of course, guided by the questionnaire. Much of the material recorded refers to rural life in Wales during the first half of the twentieth century, especially to traditional domestic, agricultural, and village life. On completing their work, David Parry’s students would donate a sample of their recordings to him, and these originals now form a major part of the Archive. Together with the complete recordings made by David Parry’s successor, Robert Penhallurick, for his survey of Northern Welsh English, they are a precious resource for linguists and social historians.

A second phase of SAWD was begun in 1985, this time using a more sociolinguistic methodology to collect material from the urban areas of Wales, and in some ways building on the work of Ceri George in the Rhondda in the early 1980s (the Archive has copies of her recordings). Younger and middle-aged informants were interviewed as well as the 60-plus age-group in Cardiff, Caernarfon, Wrexham, Carmarthen, and Swansea. These recordings are also held in the Archive, and were used by the Finnish dialectologist Heli Paulasto for her 2006 book on Welsh English Syntax.

Ownership of the Archive is now held by Robert Penhallurick, but see Acknowledgements for a list of those who have contributed to SAWD. The Archive of Welsh English is currently housed at the University of Swansea, which also hosts this website. The Archive is, however, independent of any department or research centre.  As the years pass, its materials become more valuable, and more fragile. A programme of digitization has begun under the direction of Robert Penhallurick, and copies of the digitized audio files have been donated to the British Library, allowing much greater access to the recordings. In addition, via the BL’s Sounds Familiar website, the SAWD recordings have very happily been digitally united with archive recordings made for the Survey of English Dialects.


Cowshed Map

Map showing the regional distribution in England and Wales of some names for Cow-shed, taken from David Parry’s Grammar and Glossary of Anglo-Welsh Dialects (1999). Note especially ‘shippon’, derived from Old English scypen.

 

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