Initiating the Young Appalachians’ Living Language (YALL) Corpus

The varieties of English spoken in Appalachia are some of the most widely-recognized varieties of American English (Wolfram and Christian 1976, Montgomery 2004), and popular conceptions of the varieties, which cast speakers as ignorant and backwards, and their language as inherently incorrect, are based on the mythologies of Appalachian people and culture as isolated and homogenous (Montgomery 1999). These negative notions about Appalachian Englishes are pervasive and powerful.

With this context as a backdrop, we have initiated a collaborative research endeavor – the Young Appalachians’ Living Language (YALL) Corpus – to build a corpus of audio-aligned transcripts of interviews with young people from across Appalachia, providing a large collection of sociolinguistic data from the Appalachian dialect region and a representation of Appalachian speech to the interested public through a website designed for outreach and education. As a monitor corpus (Davies 2010) that gathers comparable data sets at regular temporal intervals to build a longitudinal collection of data for a language community, the YALL Corpus holds the potential to reveal ongoing, long-range changes in Appalachian Englishes that have been difficult to capture with standard sociolinguistic methodologies.

Our main goal in this presentation is to discuss our methods and rationale for the corpus. We will give a brief glimpse into the kinds of data that have been collected so far, but data analysis will not figure strongly in our presentation. We hope to present the case for the project as a whole, soliciting input on our data collection, processing, and analysis techniques.