The ABC of dialects: exploring historical notes digitally

Citizens have always played an important role in empirical linguistics. Especially in the field of lexis - long before the term Citizen Science was established to describe a methodological paradigm - they were not only passive suppliers of linguistic data, but actively participated in its collection. A prominent example, whose data collection will also be the focus of the planned project, is the “Wörterbuch der bairischen Mundarten in Österreich” (WBÖ) (‘Dictionary of Bavarian Dialects in Austria ‘).

The TCS extension project “ABCs of dialects” (FWF TCS134) aims at transcribing and evaluating the handwriting and lexis contained on the over 100-year-old WBÖ paper slips with the intention of engaging citizens with their linguistic and regional heritage, making the historical information digitally accessible, and connecting to current research on lexis and language variation and change in the DiÖ project.

Citizens will be guided and trained in the transcription, with citizen experts and academic researchers ensuring the validation process. The scans of the paper slips and the obtained knowledge will be made available via a web interface such as Zooniverse which is a well-known platform for citizen engagement.

Our approach is novel in that it brings together linguistic and cultural knowledge from the area of lexical research and variation in Austria that covers material from one of the largest and richest collections of Austrian language, the WBÖ collection, which was originally collected by citizens. We thus aim to processes it together with and make it available again for citizens. Additionally, the project aims to establish an evaluation and reflection of this historic material, the meaning and use of Austrian German lexis, in the present day.

The project is a collaborative project of the SFB "German in Austria. Variation - Contact - Perception" (FWF F060) and the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage (ACDH-CH) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).

Click here for our participation page on Zooniverse.

Project Duration

1 March 2023 ­– 28 February 2025



Alexandra N. Lenz

Philipp Stöckle


Project Partner

SFB "Deutsch in Österreich. Variation - Kontakt - Perzeption"