Twenty five countries have Arabic as an official language, but the dialects spoken vary greatly, and even within one country different accents are heard.
The Intonational Variation in Arabic project is hosted by the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, a leading centre for sociophonetic research.
Recordings were made on location in the Middle East, to minimise cross-linguistic interference.
Adapting methodology from earlier ESRC funded work on English (www.phon.ox.ac.uk/IViE/) the project has generated a public-access corpus of Arabic speech, using a parallel set of sentences, stories and conversations, recorded with 18-30 year olds in eight locations across the Arab world.
Two further datasets in Morocco, of speech data from older speakers and with speakers of Moroccan Arabic who are bilingual in Amazigh (Tashlhiyt), to investigate potential changes in progress and/or variation due to language contact.
Many features create the impression of 'a different accent' in a language, including how individual speech sounds (consonants/vowels) are pronounced, where stress falls in a word, and what intonation patterns are used.
There is extensive prior research on the first two of these for Arabic, but few descriptions of the intonation of individual dialects. In addition, what we do know is based on different data types, so direct comparisons cannot be made.