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Whether you’re teaching a college-level linguistics class or classes on more general principles of written and spoken language, it’s important for your students to examine real-world language.

For example, if you’re teaching phonetics/phonology in college (or reading skills in the K-12 system), it’s important for students to be exposed to a variety of voices so that they understand the limitations of the English spelling system.

Or, if you’re teaching composition skills, it’s important for students to learn to investigate primary sources  in addition to the second hand analsys that the typically get in textbooks.  In this way, they are able to see the flaws (and successes) of such second hand reporting, thus engaging them in critical thinking skills that are sometimes more difficult to faciliate when they only have access to secondary sources.

One way to ensure such exposure to real-world language, is to direct them toward linguistic corpora (language-based collections) on the web.  Here’s a lits of corpora that might work well for such projects.

American Life Histories:  Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940

American Slave Narratives Narratives 

Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) Audio Sample

Baylor University Institute for Oral History:

Born in Slavery:  Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938

Call Home American English Speech (University of Pennsylvania)

COCA:  Corpus of Contemporary American English (Mark Davies, BYU)

COHA: Corpus of Historical American English (Mark Davies, BYU)

English Broadcast News Speech (from 1996)

Immigrant Archive Project

Institute for Latino Studies:  Latino Arts and Culture Oral History Project

Linguist List’s Corpora Data Base

Oral History Association

Mountain Voices:  Stories from people who live in mountain regions all over the world

NPR’s Story Corps

TIMIT:   Acoustic Phonetic Continuous Speech Corpus

UNC’s Oral Histories of the American South


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