The National Museum of Language is happy to partner with The Dictionary of American English (DARE) to present a virtual exploration on how data was collected by field researchers for the reference dictionary.
DARE is based on face-to-face interviews carried out in all 50 states between 1965 and 1970. Graduate students, primarily from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, conducted interviews and made recordings of speakers in communities across the country. The stories that you will find in this exhibit are based on the fieldworkers’ memoirs published in the DARE newsletter.
In this exhibit, you can read the stories of the field workers and play a game to try out the job as a fieldworker.
Called “DARE” by those who know it well, it is a six-volume reference work that documents words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from place to place across the United States. The sixth volume was published in 2013.
The dictionary draws on in person interviews and a comprehensive collection of written materials (diaries, letters, novels, histories, biographies, newspapers, government documents, etc.) that cover our history from the colonial period to the present.
You may have heard that American English has been “homogenized” by the media and our mobile population. DARE shows that there are still many differences in the dialect regions of the U.S. The Dictionary is being updated in DARE Online. You can subscribe to access it here.
Meet the DARE Field Researchers
Told in a graphic novel style narrative, the field workers recount their experiences
conducting research for DARE.
Art work created by Linda Mitchell Thompson and coloring by Sophia Openshaw.
Click from the researchers below to view their story.
Play the Game
Simulation of the Fieldworker Experience
Your job is to convince people in a small town to answer the DARE questionnaire. It will only take a week of their time, as there are 1600 questions! (Please wait – it takes a minute to load after you open the page.)