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Listening to the Past
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Book description

Audio recordings of English are available from the first half of the twentieth century and thus complement the written data sources for the recent history of the language. This book is the first to bring together a team of globally recognised scholars to document and analyse these early recordings in a single volume. Looking at examples of regional varieties of English from England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Canada and other anglophone countries, the volume explores both standard and vernacular varieties, and demonstrates how accents of English have changed between the late nineteenth century and the present day. The socio-phonetic examinations of the recordings will be of interest to scholars of historical linguistics, the history of the English language, language variation and change, phonetics, and phonology.


‘This is a broad, ambitious, and enlightening use of previously untapped sources. The collection provides an exciting new dimension to the analysis of variation and change in twentieth-century English.'

Donka Minkova - University of California, Los Angeles

‘This is the first major publication to tap the wealth of available archival sound recordings for the historical study of spoken English. The editor is to be commended for bringing together a strong line-up of experts and for covering British and American English as well as several New Englishes.'

Christian Mair - University of Freiburg

'I am very glad that this book exists. As someone who is interested in all aspects of the phonological history of English, I find it a delight to see so much that is new and appetite-whetting gathered together in one volume, especially given that most of the chapters are discussing varieties that are far from the standard forms of English that have often been (understandably but frustratingly) the focus of much historical research.'

Patrick Honeybone Source: Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics

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