In the research of Estonian dialects, the historical development and typological characteristics of the dialects are studied. The main focus is on phonetic and grammatical variation, morphosyntax and vocabulary of the dialects. The research is largely based on the Corpus of Estonian Dialects, which is compiled at the Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics.
The results of vocabulary research are used to compile dialect dictionaries. Dialect dictionaries are prepared in cooperation with the Estonian Language Institute and institutes dealing with regional languages (Võro Institute, Seto Institute, Mulgi Institute, Kihnu Institute).
In the research of South Estonian languages, the development and features of modern South Estonian written languages are studied, and historical South Estonian language islands are compared. A sociolinguistic approach also plays an important role in this research, the linguistic attitude of South Estonian speakers are considered, for example. An interdisciplinary approach that takes into account the reflection of cultural characteristics in language is important when it comes to dialect research. These characteristics are also taken into consideration when compiling language corpora and dictionaries