Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry Digital Archive User Guide: Understanding the Answers to Questions

This is a guide to using the Digital Archive to the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (

Answers to Questions


The interviews were a lengthy affair, designed to provide additional linguistic and ethnographic data as well as to ensure that the specific "answers" to the questions were provided in a more natural context, rather than simply pulled out of the blue. The discussion proceeded in the order prescribed by the questionnaire (except in the case of one of the interviewers, MS, who applied a different order.) 

The full interviews were recorded, but when the specific word or expression sought by the question was provided, the interviewer would would note it down, along with some additional notes about the circumstances of the answer (e.g., whether additional prompting was required, whether the answer was volunteered by the interviewee's spouse, whether the interviewee qualified the term by noting that it was old fashioned, not actually a Yiddish word, etc., etc.)  Hence, each answer typically consists of the sought-after word or expression, preceded and/or followed by explanatory notes.  Sometimes an  answer to the question was drawn from a different part of the interview, and note was made of that fact.

As already implied, many interviewers provided more than one answer to a question. In addition, in a few cases, more than one individual was interviewed for a particular locality. Additional interviewees were identified by appending letter A, B, etc. to the five digit ID number (e.g. 47086A).

The answers might be later revised by the interviewers, as well as by the project leaders, who often added some additional editorial notes.

In the earliest days of the project, when Blue books were still being used, answers were written down in Yiddish script, and a special system of notational signs was used.  Once a standardized Answer Sheet was devised, however, a new Latin-alphabet transcription system was adopted, designed for easier computer processing.  It sought to capture not only phonetic values, but accentual ones as well.  A new notational system was also adopted as this time.

Separate discussion of the Answer Sheets, Bluebooks, and Transcription and Notational Systems for the Answer Sheets and Blue Books are available elsewhere on this site.