Dialect Mapping Tool

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Participatory Methods Tools
Dialect Mapping Tool
Bilingualism Tool
Domains of Language Use Tool
Appreciative Inquiry Tool
Cause and Effect Tree
Stakeholder Analysis
Force Field Analysis
Community Connection Tool
Traffic Light Tool
Wheel of Vitality
Church Domains Tool


The purpose of this tool is to assist speakers of a specific dialect in discussing information they already know about the dialects and levels of comprehension between dialects. Another purpose is to encourage them to think about which varieties of their language could use a single set of written or oral materials


This tool should be adapted to the local geographic terms such as municipality, district. Labels should usually refer to “[L1] spoken in [place name]”. Some aspects of this tool may seem redundant, but each step contributes to a fuller picture of the local perception of the language situation.


  • lots of rectangular pieces of paper
  • bold markers
  • medium loops of string
  • long loops of string
  • markers
    • faces that correspond to expressions representing the different levels of comprehension: "completely", "most", "half", "a little"
    • symbols for the 4 variety usage patterns in step 8
    • number markers to rate languages as primary, secondary, etc for choices for language development media


Step # Ask/Say Do
1 What is the name of your language? What is the name of your people? If more than one, then for each category ask "Which name is the one you prefer to use?" Write all the language names on one piece of paper and all the names of the people on another.
2 Could you please name all the districts and villages where [L1] is spoken? Write each on a separate piece of paper. Note:In some situations, rather than district or village one could ask for the names of all the dialects, clans, rivers, or other feature where [L1] is spoken.
3 - Place all these pieces of paper on the ground to show which dialects/municipalities/districts are next to each other.
4 You have just shown the places where the different varieties of [L1] is spoken. We now want to think about languages that are just a little different from your own language. What other languages are so similar to [L1] that when they speak, you can understand at least some words? Write the names of these languages on pieces of paper and add them to the “map” on the ground
5 Do any groups of villages all speak [L1] in the same way? If so, place a small loop of string around each such group.
6 Which variety do you understand best? Second best? Place the appropriate number written on cardboard next to each municipality, language or group of municipalities.
7 Now we want to show which of these varieties you understand completely, which you don’t understand most, which you understand about half, and which you only understand a little. In which of these villages can you understand the way they speak completely? etc. Place the markers for "completely", "most", "half", "a little". Show them the face markers and explain the meaning of each. Have them place the faces for “completely” first. Repeat for each other category of comprehension.
8 Now we want to think about what you and the people from these places speak to each other. Show the markers for “We each speak our own variety”, “We use ours, they use another variety” “We use another variety, but they use their own” and “We each use another variety”. Use a different marker to symbolize each usage pattern and place them accordingly.
9 Some people have said they want to start writing books/recording CDs in [L1]. If books were written/CDs were recorded in [L1], which villages would be able to use those books/CDs? have them put a long string around those varieties
10 Out of all these you have grouped together, which variety should be used as the one for writing/recording) [L1] so that all the others will understand it well? Have them place marker "1" on the first language they choose.
11 If that language could not be used, then which one? etc. Use "2" and "3" markers to mark these second, third, etc. choices.

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