SLX Corpus of Classic Sociolinguistic Interviews

Item Name: SLX Corpus of Classic Sociolinguistic Interviews
Author(s): Stephanie Strassel, Jeffrey Conn, Suzanne Wagner Evans, Christopher Cieri, William Labov, Kazuaki Maeda
LDC Catalog No.: LDC2003T15
ISBN: 1-58563-273-2
ISLRN: 034-299-958-433-1
Release Date: November 25, 2003
Member Year(s): 2003
DCMI Type(s): Sound
Sample Type: pcm
Sample Rate: 22050
Data Source(s): field recordings
Project(s): DASL, Talkbank
Application(s): sociolinguistics, discourse analysis
Language(s): English
Language ID(s): eng
License(s): LDC User Agreement for Non-Members
Online Documentation: LDC2003T15 Documents
Licensing Instructions: Subscription & Standard Members, and Non-Members
Citation: Strassel, Stephanie, et al. SLX Corpus of Classic Sociolinguistic Interviews LDC2003T15. Web Download. Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium, 2003.
Related Works: View


The SLX Corpus of Classic Sociolinguistic Interviews comprises eight sociolinguistic interviews with a total of nine speakers, conducted in the 1960s and 70s. All of the interviews are conducted by William Labov or by one of his students. Labov notes that these interviews are not classic in the sense that they form part of a systematic sociolinguistic study of the speech community. What makes these interviews classic is that they represent classic solutions to the problems of achieving cross-cultural contact, reducing the effect of the Observers Paradox and approximating the vernacular of everyday life. Most importantly, they are interviews with extraordinarily gifted, memorable and fluent speakers.

These particular interviews have also been targeted for inclusion in this corpus because of their sound quality and because publication of the audio data and corresponding transcripts and annotations does not violate any agreement the interviewer made with the speakers regarding data distribution.

The corpus includes the complete interview recordings plus time-aligned verbatim transcripts for each speaker. Also included in the publication is a sociolinguistic variable survey that represents an overview of the intra- and inter-speaker variation attested in the corpus, highlighting a broad range of phonological, phonetic, grammatical, lexical and stylistic variables. Finally, the publication includes a number of annotation tools that allow users to listen to each interview while browsing the corresponding transcripts, and to display and hear each token identified in the variable survey. These tools can be extended to create new time-aligned transcripts or tag additional variables within the existing corpus.

The SLX Corpus was developed as part of the Data and Annotations for Sociolinguistics (DASL) Project, an investigation of best practices in the use of digital speech corpora for the study of language variation. Containing classic interview material in the Labovian tradition, it is a valuable teaching tool for linguists. The recordings demonstrate successful interviewing techniques, the sound quality is high, and the digitization, segmentation and transcription of the data represent best practice in these areas. The variable survey highlights over 150 sociolinguistic variables attested in the corpus and suggests avenues for further research. Most importantly, the SLX Corpus provides both an example of a digital speech corpus developed specifically to support sociolinguistic research, and a stable benchmark for training in sociolinguistic data collection, digitization, segmentation, transcription, analysis and publication.



The 17 speech files are 22050Hz, 16-bit, single-channel in the MS WAV (RIFF) format, for a total of 575 minutes (~ 1.5GB).

The audio data reflects a broad spectrum of speaking styles, including spontaneous speech, narratives, responses and formal linguistic tasks. The interviews touch on a multitude of topics, and corpus users should note that the language of the interviews represents the uncensored opinions of the speakers, reflecting their daily concerns and personal histories.

Taken as a whole, the speakers exemplify a wide variety of regional and social dialects. Demographic information for each main speaker in the corpus is displayed in the table below.

Speaker Age Speech Community Occupation Ethnicity Education
Adolphus H. 81 Near Hillsboro, NC Farmer African American Very little
Bobbie A. 22 Ayr, Scotland Saw Doctor Scottish/Italian Some technical college
Henry G. 60 E. Atlanta, GA (Dekalb Co.) Railroad foreman European American High school graduate
Jerry T. 19 Near Leakey, Texas Gas station attendant European American Some high school
Joe D. (interviewed with Eddie M.) 21 Liverpool, England Docker English Some high school
Eddie M. (Interviewed with Joe D.) 19 Liverpool, England Docker English Some high school
Kathy D. 15 Rochester, NY Student European American In 11th grade
Louise A. 53 Knoxville, TN Mother European American Unknown
Rose B. 43 New York, NY (Lower East Side) Factory seamstress Italian American Sixth Grade

The corpus also contains transcripts, annotations, annotation tools and documentation.

The documentation includes the complete segmentation and transcription guidelines, descriptions of the variables and style codes used in the variable survey, demographic information plus Labovs notes about each speaker, and an instruction manual for using the corpus tools.


None at this time.


The SLX corpus was funded in part through a five-year grant (BCS-998009, KDI, SBE) from the National Science Foundation via TalkBank, an interdisciplinary project to foster research and development in communicative behavior by providing tools and standards for analysis and distribution of language data. Additional funding was provided by Linguistic Data Consortium.


The cost of the first 100 copies of this publication (not counting the copies distributed to LDC members) is covered by NSF Grant Number BCS-998009, and therefore free of charge. After these first 100 copies are distributed, additional copies will be available for the production cost of $100.

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