A recent wave of gifts and funding brought new prospects for the Dictionary of American Regional English.

An anonymous $100,000 gift joined the increased funding streams for DARE last week, according to a University of Wisconsin statement. The statement said the project also received a $30,000 gift from the American Dialect Society and $100,000 in non-tuition and non-state funding from UW’s College of Letters and Science.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul DeLuca and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Darrell Bazzell also committed their support with a $130,000 per year, three-year commitment, according to the statement.

DARE is a cataloged record of all of the words, phrases and pronunciations of words in the English language that vary from one part of the U.S. to another, Chief Editor Joan Hall said. 

“Until we see how much variety there is, we really won’t have any understanding at all of historical, ethnic and regional differences in our speech,” Hall said. “Granted, we do communicate very well, but there are many thousands of differences.”

Gifts from DARE’s individual donors have “fallen off,” Hall said. She said this lack of donations is probably due to the economy and because some people felt that since the dictionary reached the letter “Z” in its print edition, it was time to move onto other things.

The most recent anonymous $100,000 gift, Hall said, is a wonderful contribution to the dictionary’s ongoing expenses. This gift, Hall said, will hold off the seven layoff notices she was forced to send out at the end of June.

Now these people, including Hall, will be employed for almost another year at least, she said.

The collection is important because the English language of the U.S. evolves and changes with time, according to DeLuca. He said although work is finished on the “A” through “Z” five-volume DARE editions, the project is still ongoing.

The dictionary editors are now working on creating an online edition, DeLuca said. He said this involves making a searchable database that is hyperlinked to multiple locations.

“I don’t mean putting a PDF file online,” DeLuca said. “We have to transition from the old to new.”

DeLuca said the decision to award DARE with a $130,000 per year, three-year commitment was based on a number of factors. He said estimates suggest the revenue stream in terms of royalty from the original hardbound volumes will take up to two or three years to stabilize.

It was difficult to anticipate the amount of external funding from various foundations, DeLuca said. He said it takes some time to compete for and put foundation funding into place.

“Our estimate was from what could be done from central campus, recognizing that new income streams will come in and replace the short term money we provided,” DeLuca said. 

Hall said throughout the dictionary’s history, the National Endowment for the Humanities has primarily funded DARE.

Other large streams of funding, she added, came from the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, different parts of UW and other private foundations that have been extraordinarily generous.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of the people and organizations that have helped us,” Hall said. “I think they will be proud to be associated with our work.”