The English Dialect Dictionary, being the complete vocabulary of all dialect words still in use, or known to have been in use during the last two hundred years; founded on the publications of the English Dialect Society and on a large amount of material never before printed was published by Oxford University Press in 6 volumes between 1898 and 1905. Its compilation and printing was funded privately by Joseph Wright, a self-taught philologist at the University of Oxford. Vol. 1: A-C; Vol. 2: D-G; Vol. 3: H-L; Vol. 4: M-Q; Vol. 5: R-S; Vol. 6: T-Z, supplement, bibliography and grammar. The content was issued progressively as 28 parts intended for binding into the six volumes with publication dates of 1898, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904 & 1905. Vol. 6 includes an invaluable list of writings in dialect arranged by counties.
Due to the scale of the work, 70,000 entries, and the period in which the information was gathered, it is regarded as a standard work in the historical study of dialect. Wright marked annotations and corrections in a cut-up and rebound copy of the first edition; this copy is among Wright's papers in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.
A digitized version of the EDD has been made available by Innsbruck University, free of charge for non-institutional, non-profit purposes. A scanned version of the work made by University of Toronto Library is currently available through the Internet Archive.
English Dialect Grammar
The sixth volume includes the English Dialect Grammar, which was also published separately. This included 16,000 dialectal forms across two main sections: 'Phonology', which gave a historical description of the development of sounds in dialect; and 'Accidence', which gave details on grammar and especially on morphology.
Among linguists, the Dialect Grammar has been criticised more than the Dialect Dictionary itself. Wright has been accused of borrowing material from the work of Alexander John Ellis that he had previously criticised. Peter Anderson claimed that Wright did Ellis a "disservice" by criticising the methods used in collecting data, but then using almost identical methods in English Dialect Grammar and taking on much of Ellis's data for his own work. Both Peter Anderson and Graham Shorrocks have argued that Wright distorted Ellis's data by using a less precise phonetic notation and using vague geographical areas rather than the precise locations given by Ellis. Helga Koekeritz stated that Wright's information on the Suffolk dialect was almost entirely derived from Ellis, and Warren Maguire has made similar comments about Wright's information on the north-east of England whilst also saying that the Grammar did introduce much new material.
- Anderson, Peter M. 1977. "A New Light on Early English Pronunciation". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society part 77, vol. 14.32-41.
- A. J. ELLIS AS DIALECTOLOGIST: A REASSESSMENT, Historiographia Linguistica 18:2-3 (1991), page 324
- Helga Koekeritz, Phonology of the Suffolk Dialect, Uppsala, 1932, page vii as quoted in Peter Anderson (1977)
- Maguire, Warren (August 2003). ""Mr. A. J. Ellis – the pioneer of scientific phonetics in England" (Sweet 1877, vii): an examination of Ellis's data from the northeast of England" (PDF). University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
I examined first the relatively accessible Wright (1905), but soon realised that most (perhaps all) of Wright's data for the north-east is derived from Ellis (1889).