PhD-research on dialects involves CLARIN tools

Submitted by Sebastian Drude on 22 June 2016

Recently, Sandra Hansen-Morath defended her PhD at the Faculty of Philology of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.Br. Her research crucially involved CLARIN tools.

The research study “regional and sociolinguistic variation in the border triangle Germany–France–Switzerland – quantitative studies on dialect change” (in German) deals with dialects currently used by average local speakers in their daily communication. The aim of the study was to describe the dialects’ structure and their geographic distribution with respect to the phonological dialect shift. For this purpose, six speakers each in 37 places of the Alemannic language area were interviewed in different interview situations. In order to analyse the social stratification of the regional speech variation, the factors gender, age and profession were taken into account. Phonetic-phonological distances were computed to capture the regional distribution of dialect similarities. At first distances were related to a reference system of basic dialects for different phonological variables. In a second part of the study the regional distribution is described by calculating the Levenshtein Distance between phonetic transcriptions. The data were compared with traditional dialect data. The results of the dialectometric study were visualized in different spatial maps based on the different speaker groups. These maps depict dialect areas by using different colours and hues based on cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling methods.

To calculate and visualize the distances, the tool Gabmap was used. Gabmap is a free web-based application for dialectometry studies, supported by a grant from the CLARIN-NL program to the ADEPT project, which aimed at assaying dialect differences, in particular applying edit-distance to pronunciation transcriptions.

CLARIN congratulates the new doctor and hopes that more research follows this inspiring example.

Sandra Hansen-Morath (2016): Regionale und soziolinguistische Variation im alemannischen Dreiländereck – Quantitative Studien zum Dialektwandel. (Regional and sociolinguistic variation in the border triangle Germany–France–Switzerland – quantitative studies on dialect change). Doctoral thesis in linguistics at the Faculty of Philology of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.Br., defended on 13.05.2016.