SNF-AGORA Citizen Linguistics

Citizen Linguistics: locate that dialect!

In 2015 the LiZZ's predecessor organisation ZüKL submitted a SNF-AGORA project proposal, which was accepted in January 2016. The project, carried out by the Zurich Center for Linguistics, started in March 2016 and ended in May 2018. 

Content and aims of the project

At the heart of the Citizen Linguistics project is an online platform where users can identify dialect samples by locating them on a map (play the games here:, Speech samples may sound like this:

This example comes from the Phonogram Archives of the University of Zurich ( The following French sample is extracted from the OFROM-corpus (

Interested users have the additional options to leave comments, to use a supervised forum and to add their own transcriptions and ratings to the sound data. Linguist experts communicate updates and findings from the incoming data via a monthly newsletter from the beginning of 2017 onwards.

The aim of the project is twofold: entering into a dialogue with the public about linguistic variation in Switzerland, while at the same time collecting data for linguistic analysis on the perception of this variation by lay people. Linguistic awareness is expected to increase, which may help breaking down common dialect stereotypes.

Academic and public context

Dialect variation is a reality that most Swiss people encounter on a daily basis. The playful reflection of the differences and characteristics of dialects should help build a new awareness of linguistic diversity in Switzerland and provide novel insights for research. Results of the “localize-it” game may be displayed as follows:

This heat map shows the location of a native-language speaker form Fribourg by the test subjects. The results show that speakers from Fribourg are sometimes identified as coming from the Valais. The speech sample in question was correctly identified in 35% of the cases. 28% of the test persons, however, incorrectly placed the speaker in Valais.