Many of the unique syntactic features of Dutch dialects spoken in Flanders only occur in very specific discourse contexts, and therefore cannot be researched using existing databases and linguistic atlases, as those are based on elicited data, not spontaneous speech. At Ghent University, 783 tape recordings (c. 700h) of spontaneous dialect speech from all Dutch-speaking provinces in Belgium and from French Flanders (France) are available. They were recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, and the speakers were all born around the turn of the 20th century (the oldest in 1871). The tapes have been digitised (www.dialectloket.be), but not yet digitally transcribed, or linguistically annotated. With an eye on fast advancing dialect loss across Flanders, it is an urgent desideratum that this wealth of data be transcribed, annotated, and made available for linguistic research, as younger speakers are increasingly unable to understand and transcribe these recordings. Indeed, they already represent a historical stage of the language, given that the speakers were born around the turn of the 20th century, and hence acquired language about 100-120 years ago. The accessibility of the data for researchers is therefore invaluable for diachronic, typological and comparative research. In order to make this enormous wealth of dialect data present at Ghent University available for fundamental research, their transcription and linguistic annotation is of high priority.
With the help of a small research grant (krediet aan navorser) from FWO, we are currently transcribing and linguistically annotating a small strategic selection of these tape recordings. This project serves as a pilot for a larger project in preparation.