Researchers are using an app to crowdsource how the English language has changed

Does “scone” rhyme with the word “gone” or “cone”? Is “last” pronounced with a long a, as if an r follows it?

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, along with academics from the universities of Zurich and Bern in Switzerland, are using these (often contentious) questions of how Brits pronounce words to try to map how and where the English language has changed.

The team recently launched a smartphone app that attempts to guess a user’s regional accent. A user will take a quiz in which they answer how they would pronounce 26 different words, colloquialisms and phrases before the app guesses where in England they are from.

Users are then given the option to share with researchers data on their location, age, ethnicity, education, and gender, as well as how many times they have moved in the last 10 years. “We want to document how English dialects have changed, spread, or levelled out,” said Dr. Adrian Leemann, a researcher at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Cambridge.

Read more: Quartz

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