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Lothian Lockdown: The Lothian Diary Project


The Lothian Diary Project is made possible by a cross-School collaboration among data scientists, linguists, psychotherapists, public health researchers, and political scientists. We are analysing the 195 audio and video diaries residents from the Lothians have contributed between 1 May 2020 and 15 July 2021. On this page you can read about some of our findings and access our research papers. This is a work in progress, so do come back to check out our new work!

How do we talk about place during a lockdown?

Claire Cowie, Lauren Hall-Lew, Zuzana Elliott, Anita Klingler, Nina Markl, and Stephen Joseph McNulty. 2022. Imagining the city in lockdown: Place in the COVID-19 self-recordings of the Lothian Diary Project. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence: Language & Computation.


In this paper, we took a closer look at how some of the Lothian diaries contributors talk about “place” in their retellings of their lockdown experience. We were interested in understanding how our sense of place shifted during the lockdown. Movement restrictions meant that many people spent their time differently. Some, both long-term and new residents, started exploring their local area. Others had to come up with new ways to fill their time as their usual activities were disrupted. 

In this article, we discuss some of the ways people’s orientations towards Edinburgh have changed during lockdown.

How to document individual experiences of lockdown?

As the first lockdown was announced in Scotland in March 2020, we were interested in supporting our local communities while figuring out ways to document and understand the extraordinary situation we suddenly found ourselves in. Over the next 15 months we encouraged Lothian residents to contribute audio and video diaries about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure that the perspectives and voices who are hit hardest by the pandemic were included, we paid contributors and facilitated donations to local charities, specifically partnered with charities and held public engagement events. We were keen to capture people’s lived experiences in their own words – each contribution is unique.

You can read our peer-reviewed article where we discuss how we collected the Lothian Diaries and why they’re particularly useful for research on the different ways people use language published in the journal Linguistics Vanguard, here (Open Access)

Lauren Hall-Lew, Claire Cowie, Catherine Lai, Nina Markl, Stephen Joseph McNulty, Shan-Jan Sarah Liu, Clare Llewellyn, Beatrice Alex, Zuzana Elliott, and Anita Klingler. 2022. The Lothian Diary Project: Sociolinguistic Methods during the COVID-19 Lockdown. Linguistics Vanguard.

Report about our findings to the Scottish Parliament

A key aim of the Lothian Diary Project from its outset was to work to share our findings with those institutions and organisations involved in decision-making, policy and planning for future public health emergencies. In this way, we hope that insights from our research can make an impact upon future preparations.

We have recently completed two versions of a report to the Scottish Parliament – a longer Executive Summary, and a more condensed Parliamentary Briefing (POSTnote).

Scottish parliament building from front

What does "place" mean during a lockdown?

work by: Claire Cowie, Lauren Hall-Lew,  Zuzana Elliott, Anita Klingler, Nina Markl and Stephen Joseph McNulty

We have also been particularly interested in how contributors talk about place in the Lothian Diaries. We presented some preliminary analysis at the Mass Observation seminar in October. You can watch the talk and discussion here (2:00-30:05).



We were particularly interested in participants who lived alone during the pandemic.


Stable variation & the formality of pandemic discourse: The Scottish BIT vowel

We have presented some of our findings about linguistic variation at NWAV49 – a conference about language variation. You can watch the video of the talk here.

We looked at a small subset of our recordings submitted by 8 white Scottish men and compared it to recordings of similar speakers collected by John Esling in the 1970s (analysed by Jess Göbel). We were particularly interested in how speakers pronunced the vowel in words like kit or lip. Other work has shown that working class speakers and middle class speakers in Scotland pronounce this vowel slightly differently, and so we wanted to see if speakers born in the first half of the 20th century differed from the younger speakers in our Lothian Diaries. While we did not find evidence for this ongoing change, there is a stylistic difference because our contributors speak more formally than those interviewed in the 1970s.

work by: Lauren Hall-Lew, Jessica Göbel, Claire Cowie, Catherine Lai, Nina Markl, Stephen Joseph McNulty, and Zuzana Elliott

An open archive of Lothian Diaries

Hall-Lew, Lauren, Claire Cowie, Stephen Joseph McNulty, Nina Markl, Catherine Lai, Clare Llewellyn, Beatrice Alex, Nini Fang, Zuzana Elliott, and Anita Klinger. 2021. The Lothian Diary Project: Investigating the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Edinburgh and Lothian Residents. Journal of Open Humanities Data 7(4):1–5. DOI:

A subset of the Lothian Diaries dataset is available to access for other researchers.

You can read our short peer-reviewed description of the Lothian Diaries dataset published in the Journal of Open Humanities Data here (Open Access)

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