Living languages and their varieties are highly dynamic systems subject to constant change. Authentic access to earlier stages of spoken linguistic varieties is ideally provided by sound recordings, which are available for the past 100 years only to a limited extent. Such recordings must be preserved and have to be made accessible.
The present project is a cooperation of the Phonogrammarchiv, the Research Department “Variation and Change of German in Austria” and the FWF Special Research Programme “German in Austria” (F60) to digitize, annotate and analyse the Corpus of Austrian Dialect Recordings from the 20th Century from the Phonogrammarchiv’s holdings, starting with a collection of ca. 1750 dialect recordings (ca. 250 hours) that were included in UNESCO’s Memory of Austria Register in 2018, in order to ensure lasting preservation and an adequate data description.
The project started in January 2019.
Initiated by Maria Hornung and Eberhard Kranzmayer, in the 1950s to 1980s numerous linguists and dialectologists made recordings of regional varieties of spoken German all over Austria on magnetic tape. These recordings, which provide an exceptional picture of the dialect landscape of Austria, came about with the help of the Phonogrammarchiv, where the tapes are also archived, and constitute a source of historical dialect audio data that is unique in the German-speaking area.
The corpus consists of ca. 2450 audio recordings (ca. 520 hours), two thirds of which were yet to be digitized, and the digitization of which has meanwhile been completed. Traditional sound carriers such as wax cylinders or magnetic tape are subject to natural decay: once a sound carrier can no longer be played, the recordings on it are lost forever. Moreover, playing sound carriers such as magnetic tape requires special playing devices which are nowadays available in functioning condition only in specialized institutions. Therefore, it is necessary to digitize such perishable sound documents in order to preserve the linguistic data and contents in the long term and make them available for future generations. A carefully designed electronic metadata description and database ensures the searchability of the corpus not only for linguistic purposes.
By digitizing the audio recordings and enriching and systemizing the metadata in a searchable electronic documentation it will become possible to use these recordings in a wider scientific context as well as make them accessible to the general public.
Subcorpus Sound Recordings of Austrian Dialects 1951–1983
In phase one, the project focused on the subcorpus Tonaufnahmen österreichischer Dialekte 1951–1983 [Sound Recordings of Austrian Dialects 1951–1983], which was in included in UNESCO’s Memory of Austria Register in 2018. This subcorpus consists of a collection of ca. 1750 audio recordings (ca. 250 hours) on magnetic tape resulting from a cooperation of the Phonogrammarchiv and and the co-called “Wörterbuchkanzlei [dictionary office]” at the ÖAW (i.e. “Kommission zur Schaffung des Österreichisch-Bayerischen Wörterbuches”, after 1969 “Kommission für Mundartkunde und Namenforschung”). Phase two (in progress) is dealing with a selection of ca. 700 further recordings. Phase two (in progress) is dealing with a selection of ca. 700 further recordings.
The cooperation project will create a searchable digital corpus, to be developed into an interdisciplinary online research platform in a later step. This is highly relevant also beyond the scope of German linguistics or archiving and will guarantee optimal accessibility of this linguistic and socio-cultural treasure for all fields of research. By digitizing the audio recordings and enriching and systemizing the metadata in a searchable electronic documentation it will become possible to use these recordings in a wider scientific context as well as make them accessible to the general public.
- Christian Huber (project coordination Phonogrammarchiv)
- Alexandra N. Lenz, Ludwig Maximilian Breuer (project coordination VaWaDiÖ and SFB DiÖ
- Benjamin Fischer (metadata enrichment and systemizing)
- Bernhard Graf (audio digitizing)
- Michael Hagleitner (database programming)
Huber, Christian & Benjamin Fischer. 2021. “Digitising a corpus of Austrian dialect recordings from the 20th century”. Digital Lexis and Beyond, ed. by Christina Katsikadeli, Manfred Sellner & Michael Gassner, 38–65. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Lenz, Alexandra N., Ludwig Maximilian Breuer, Christian Huber, Benjamin Fischer & Bernhard Graf. 2020. “Österreichische Dialektaufnahmen im 20. Jahrhundert. Zur Genese, Aufbereitung und wissenschaftlichen Nutzung eines einmaligen Sprachkorpus”. International Forum on Audio-Visual Research – Jahrbuch des Phonogrammarchivs 10, 128–140.
Huber, Christian, Benjamin Fischer & Bernhard Graf. 2019. “Corpus of Austrian Dialect Recordings from the 20th Century – A Cooperation Project”. HSCR 2019. Proceedings of the Third International Workshop on the History of Speech Communication Research Vienna, September 13-14, 2019 (= Studientexte zur Sprachkommunikation 94), ed. by Michael Pucher, Jürgen Trouvain & Carina Lozo, 31–40. Dresden: TUDpress.
audio samples (German)