Lingvistbloggen and Språkbloggen have both recently posted about a contest going on over at Sveriges Radio (Sweden’s national radio). It’s called Sveriges skönaste dialekt 2008 (Sweden’s most beautiful dialect 2008). Even if you don’t speak Swedish, it’s a neat little way to hear the large variety of Swedish dialects, from skånska to värmländska to norrländska (which is really not one big homogenous dialect anyway). From SR’s perspective, this seems to be just a cute way to educate the public about the many different dialects of Swedish, not shoving standard Swedish (rikssvenska) down everyone’s throat. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t name the dialects, it just gives the speaker’s city, but that’s usually enough to figure out the dialect with a little help from a dialect map.
Personally, I’m partial to östgötska because I learned Swedish while living in Östergötland, but of course I don’t think there’s an objective “most beautiful” dialect anyway. What I think is really interesting about it is that it’s a contest decided by majority vote. Will people choose their own dialects as most beautiful, or will prestige be more important? Will they just vote for the ones they find weirdest? It immediately brings to mind Dennis Preston’s work, for example, showing that Southern US folks thought the Southern dialects were the most pleasing, while the Michiganders thought their Michigan dialect was best. It’ll be interesting to see what people choose.
Does anyone know of any similar contests in other languages?
(By the way, if you’re interested in more about Swedish dialects, SweDia is a nice place to start. They have .wav and .mp3 files of speakers from dozens of different dialects, organized by gender and approximate age group.)