Linguistic Atlas of New England

The Linguistic Atlas of New England (LANE), edited by Hans Kurath in collaboration with Miles L. Hanley, Bernard Bloch, Guy S. Lowman, Marcus L. Hansen and Julia Bloch, is a book of linguistic maps describing the dialects of New England in the 1930s.[1] LANE consists of 734 maps over three volumes, and is the first major study of the dialects in the northeastern United States. The six New England states were studied—Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island—in addition to some data from Long Island in the state of New York, and the southern edge of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Transcriptions of pronunciations elicited from informants across the region were printed directly onto maps of New England, at the location of each informant's hometown. One map was included for each of the 734 items that were studied.[2]

Linguistic Atlas of New England
AuthorHans Kurath
CountryUnited States
PublishedAMS Press Inc. 1939


LANE was the first component of the Linguistic Atlas of the United States (LAUS). LAUS was first proposed in 1928 by a committee of the Modern Language Association, and collaborative meetings with the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) began in 1929 to discuss the feasibility of the proposed linguistic atlas of the United States and Canada. In 1930, the LSA Council requested a trial run in a limited area, so that a method could be established and budget estimates could be taken for further work in other regions. In 1931, the LSA Council granted approval for the study of New England speech.[3]

Over the following years, preparations for LANE were made. The staff of the project was appointed, including Hans Kurath as director and Miles L. Haney as associate director. Additional staff members were hired with the help of fellowships from Brown University and the University of Vermont. Yale University provided headquarters for the project. Staff were trained over six weeks in the summer of 1931 before beginning fieldwork. Linguists who had experience mapping the dialects of Switzerland and Italy, Jakob Jud and Paul Schauermeier, assisted in the training process.[3]

The first component of the research took into account the historical background of New England's settlement and population. This provided a basis for which communities would be selected for study in LANE. After this initial historical investigation by Marcus L. Hansen (University of Illinois), data collection commenced. This phase spanned 25 months, and finished in September 1933.[3]



416 informants were interviewed across 213 New England communities. Though there were 431 towns and cities investigated altogether, neighboring towns were sometimes grouped together. Historical backgrounds for each town and details about each informant are given in the accompanying Handbook. Two informants of different social strata were selected from each county whenever possible. Kurath specified that one of the informants must be elderly, old-fashioned, and uneducated and the other must be middle-class and have some education.[4] Field workers characterized informants, based on education levels and age, into Type I (little formal education), Type II (moderate formal education), or Type III (high education level), and Type A (old-fashioned) or Type B (younger, more modern).[3]


Field workers used modified IPA phonetic transcription. Some additional notations were used to indicate more information, such as c. indicating the target form was spoken in natural conversation, r. indicating repetition at the field worker's request, s. indicating that the informant agreed the form was natural after hearing it suggested by the field worker, and f. indicating that the response was forced due to the field worker's insistence.[3]

Supplementary MaterialsEdit

Though most of the data were only transcribed, aluminum field recordings were made between 1933-1939 and some of the surviving records are digitized at the Library of Congress.[2]

The Handbook of the Linguistic Geography of New England (1939), by Hans Kurath and Miles L. Hanley was published in conjunction with LANE. This handbook discusses the dialect areas of New England, Kurath's methodology, the history of New England's settlement, the phonetic notation and worksheets used in data collection, and the communities and informants that were involved.[5]


The questionnaire consisted of 734 items[2] that each informant answered. These 734 items were split across LANE's three volumes, in the following distribution:[3]

Volume 1 Items
Introductory 1-3
Geography 4-27
Topography 28-51
Numerals 52-63
Time 64-86
Weather 87-100
The Farm 101-119
Agriculture 120-128
Containers and Utensils 129-161
Vehicles 163-188
Domestic Animals 189-217
Calls to Animals 218-227
Other Animals 228-242

Volume 1 had lexical categories focusing on basic words and agricultural society.

Volume 2 Items
Trees and Shrubs 243-252
Vegetables, Fruits, Berries 253-280
Food and Clothing 281-313
Mealtime 314-322
Dwellings 323-356
Clothing 357-369
Family 370-398
Social Relations 399-423
Greetings, Prepositions, and Salutations 424-431
Names, Titles, Occupations 432-455
Personal Characteristics 456-484
Body Parts 485-491

Volume 2 included topics of food, familial relationships, and descriptions of people.

Volume 3 Items
Illness and Death 492-526
Religion 527-534
Public Institutions 535-551
Business 552-572
Sport and Play 573-587
Affirmations and Interjections 588-602
Pronouns 603-634
Verb Forms: Preterites and Participles 635-672
Verb Forms: Be, Have, Do 673-690
Verb Forms: Concord 691-693
Verb Forms: Modals 694-704
Adverbs 705-719
Prepositions 720-726
Conjunctions 727-734

Volume 3 included topics of societal institutions as well as several verb forms and other parts of speech.


A main dialect boundary was found between Eastern New England and Western New England.[6] Unique variations in vocabulary and pronunciation also were found in the Boston area, the Plymouth area, the Narragansett Bay area, New Hampshire Bay and the Merrimack Valley, Maine, the New London area, Worcester County and the upper Connecticut valley, the Lower Connecticut valley, the Long Island Sound, and the Hudson Valley.[3]


  1. ^ Algeo, John (2010). The Origins and Development of the English Language (6 ed.). Boston: Wadsworth. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-4282-3145-0.
  2. ^ a b c "LAP Online - Linguistic Atlas of New England". Retrieved 2017-04-07.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kurath, Hans (1973). Handbook of the linguistic geography of New England (Second ed.). New York: AMS Press. pp. xi–xii. ISBN 0404100473. LCCN 70-37508.
  4. ^ Nina, Brown (2001-01-01). "Hans Kurath, Linguistic Atlas of the United States". EScholarship.
  5. ^ Perkins, George (1991). "Linguistic Atlas of the U.S.". Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature. Vol. 1. HarperCollins. p. 615.
  6. ^ "Linguistic Atlas of New England – Special Collections and University Archives". Retrieved 2017-04-07.