Site-restricted web searches for data collection in regional dialectology

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Grieve, Jack ; Asnaghi, Costanza ; Ruette, Tom (2013)
  • Publisher: Williams and Wilkins

This article presents a new method for data collection in regional dialectology based on site-restricted web searches. The method measures the usage and determines the distribution of lexical variants across a region of interest using common web search engines, such as Google or Bing. The method involves estimating the proportions of the variants of a lexical alternation variable over a series of cities by counting the number of webpages that contain the variants on newspaper websites originating from these cities through site-restricted web searches. The method is evaluated by mapping the 26 variants of 10 lexical variables with known distributions in American English. In almost all cases, the maps based on site-restricted web searches align closely with traditional dialect maps based on data gathered through questionnaires, demonstrating the accuracy of this method for the observation of regional linguistic variation. However, unlike collecting dialect data using traditional methods, which is a relatively slow process, the use of site-restricted web searches allows for dialect data to be collected from across a region as large as the United States in a matter of days.
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