The Audible Corpus of Spoken Ruaral Spanish (COSER) is a dialectal corpus based on interviews with informants who have been object of interest in the traditional dialectology: rural native speakers, elderly and with a low education degree. So far, 1,497 informants have been recorded, with the following distribution by sex:
Males 662 (44.2%) Females 835 (55.7%) Total: 1.497
The informants' global average age is 72.9 years old. the COSER deals with a survey oriented towards informants, who have been born in the first third of the 20th century, and who have not received much instruction. On the whole, they have attended some years of elementary school learning, according to their declarations, "to read and write, and four more rules [on elementary mathematics]".
The recordings within the COSER have been regularly obtained since 1990 up to recently in a series of surveys campaigns. This fieldwork has been organized by the support of several projects of research and as part of the field practices of the subjects "Hispanic Dialectology" (years 1988-1996) and "The Spoken Spanish. Peninsular Variants" (1996-2011), optional matters belonging to the Degree on Hispanic Philology of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM).
Until now, 801 rural places of the center and north of the Iberian Peninsula have been interviewed. The final objective is to obtain recordings of Spanish, spoken in rural areas of the whole Iberian Peninsula. The geographical zone of the localities surveyed so far appears in the map: File:Example.jpg
Map: Localities surveyed in COSER (2011)
The audible materials include, for the time being, the central band of the Iberian Peninsula. Besides, the density of the network of points is comparable to that of the regional atlases or, even, thicker.
In general, the COSER has nowadays circa 1,000 recording hours. All of them has been digitalized. Some have been also transcripted as text files, thanks to the support obtained by several research projects and the participation of numerous generations of students of the degree in the UAM, who have transcripted recordings that they collected themselves, as a part of their works in the academic course. These recordings and transcriptions are available at www.uam.es/coser.
The methodology used in the COSER belongs to that of the sociolinguistic interview, whose topics deal with the traditional life in the field. The fact that the interview focuses on these thematic modules does not prevent the interest to change towards others, such as the education, the desires, the personal experiences, the own life or the family, depending on the degree of comfort and spontaneity shown by the informant. The decision to focus the interview on thematic modules related to the rural life "from the past" has to do with the fact that, in order to accept the interview, the potential informant has to believe to have certain knowledge on a lifestyle already passed. This awareness is the result of his personal experience and of his age, and that knowledge grants the interviewed informative "authority" before the urban interviewer. The informant accepts the interview encouraged by our interest for the testimony about a lifestyle in decadence, of which the interviewed is known as an expert. We think that the spontaneous collaboration of the informant would be much more difficult to manage, if he/she were asked at the beginning about opinions or personal experiences, or on questions foreign to the rural life. In fact, in not a few occasions the informants have mentioned the condition of the university students to try to elude the interview, invoking "if you already know everything better than me!". The insistence of the team towards their interest in the strictly local traditions, in contrast with that of other rural places, has been in many occasions determinant so that he/she accepted the interview.
We find sometimes informants, whose answers tend to be monosyllabic, with short phrases. However, we always try to address a talkative interviewed, who can easily explain and discuss the subjects we deal with. This fact makes the success not be ever assured. An interview can be ideal or terrible based, previously, on the same conditions. This way, not all the interviews are neither equally suitable nor informative, depending on the disposition of the informant, on the skill of the interviewers, and on the interaction among both of them. Nevertheless, there is no testimony to be despised.
Regarding the number of informants from every place, the COSER has preferred to interview in depth a single person, be man or woman. Nevertheless, the conditions of the recording do not always avoid the partial interruption of other individuals (in general, members of the family or acquaintances who, attracted by the extraordinary circumstance of the interview, feel tempted to intervene and give their testimony). Thus, although the COSER has registered up to 1,497 informants, most of the times, each locality has only been surveyed once.
At the beginning, the protocol of the interview was designed in order to witness certain linguistic phenomena (in I, the use of the atone pronouns), but immediately other many features arose, apart from those expected. From that moment, the development of the conversation has looked for the creation of contexts favouring the appearance of dialectal information of all kind. Some of them were alluded in the specializing bibliography and others that scarcely had hardly attracted attention. In this respect, it is necessary to highlight that the COSER interviews have proved to be specially useful to document dialectal phenomena relative to the grammar; this latter aspect has been traditionally little represented in the dialectal monographs and in the questionnaires of the linguistic atlases.
The average duration of the recordings is an hour and a quarter (75 min.) by locality, but it can range from only half an hour until even more than two hours and a half. The quality of the recordings is not directly proportional to the duration, since there exist excellent and very informative recordings of only half an hour, whose results are comparable to the obtained ones in a longer session.