Sound and vision blog

09 June 2010

Voices of the UK - Introduction

Do you call “the long soft seat in the main room of your house” the sofa, the settee, the couch or something else? And what is your word for “a thing whose name you’ve forgotten”?

In 2005, as part of the BBC Voices project, over 1,300 people participated in a large-scale survey about the words they use, and their views and attitudes to language, accents and dialects. Journalists from every BBC Local Radio station in England, plus BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and BBC Ulster, recorded hour-long interviews with different groups of speakers in their region.

These recordings have now been deposited with the British Library so that they can be accessed and used by linguists, oral historians and the general public. Voices of the UK is a three year project at the British Library, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, to exploit and enhance the collection.

The main outcomes of this project will be:

  • an online catalogue of the contents of the 312 BBC Voices sound recordings
  • a detailed linguistic description of approximately 200 recordings
  • an innovative searchable resource of linguistic features (phonology, grammar and vocabulary) found in the recordings

In these blog posts, Jonnie Robinson, Jon Herring and Holly Gilbert, the researchers on the project, will write about the cataloguing of the collection, and highlight and discuss some of the interesting material found along the way. More details about the project are available at


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