The ALEICA: The strange story of a ‘speaking’ atlas


South of the Rome-Ancona line, we find that small but intricate and fascinating mosaic that is the L’Aquila basin, the area of the Abruzzo region and the Apennines where the highest rate of dialectal variation and differentiation is certainly observed. Here, in fact, lies the meeting point between two related but distinct areas: the one that with Bruno Migliorini we would call ‘median’, in the north-west, in the upper course of the Aterno river (which, outside Abruzzo, also extends into eastern Lazio, south-eastern Umbria and central-southern Marche), and the ‘southern’ (or ‘Abruzzese’ in the strict sense of the word), which extends into the middle Aterno and the Navelli plain (and then over the rest of Abruzzo and as far as Molise, Campania, Apulia and northern Calabria and, on the Adriatic, encroaches into the province of Ascoli Piceno, reaching the mouth of the Aso).

The very complex and peculiar conditions of this area prompted the planning and realisation of the first Italian linguistic atlas on a ‘supra-municipal’ scale, and one of the first that valorised oral data through an organic series of ‘speaking linguistic maps’, to which photographs and audiovisuals, including ethnographic ones, were often associated.

From the outset, this posed all the problems related to the preservation, mapping and use of data, the full use of which had to be guaranteed beyond the rapid obsolescence of hardware and software (dialect surveys were carried out in the 1990s).

We present a “talking” atlas called ALEICA, Atlante Linguistico ed Etnografico Informatizzato della Conca Aquilana; the main work is going to be published in book form , while a significant part has been implemented as a modern web application based only on open-source frameworks and open multimedia standards. All the audio and video recordings are the result of a multi-decade data collection on the field of the territory around the City of L’Aquila and its fractions. The digital subset comprises 134 questions in Italian, 2’564 spoken answers recorded from the witness, 22 images and videos, covering 21 local communities. The user can  use an online embedded search engine to select the question by keyword or by the name of the locality, and a dynamic map is populated with markers were spoken records are available in the database. For each marker the user can read the IPA transcription of the answer, play the recorded audio with the voice of the original witness, or open the multimedia objects available at that specific locality. The software back-end is a pure Python web application, which also provides a full integration of the front-end graphical user interface, without requiring developing code in other languages. Some details of the software architecture will be shown at the conference.


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