Language Variation and Change

Research Article

A sociotonetic analysis of Sui dialect contact

James N. Stanforda1

a1 Dartmouth College


Sui clan exogamy can serve as a laboratory for investigation of dialect contact and immigration. The Sui people, an indigenous minority of southwest China, have marriage customs requiring that a wife and husband have different clan origins, and the wife permanently immigrates to the husband's village at the time of marriage. Due to subtle interclan dialect variation, a married woman may have different dialect features than her husband and other local villagers. This study presents an acoustic analysis of such clan-level variation in lexical tone, a sociotonetic analysis. Results show that the immigrant women maintain the tone variants of their home clan dialects to a high degree despite spending a decade or more in the husband's village, thus illustrating a case where linguistic identity is maintained in the face of close, long-term contact.


I would like to thank the Sui people who patiently taught me to speak their language and who kindly provided the information and data used in this study. I would also like to thank Dennis Preston, David Dwyer, Grover Hudson, Yen-Hwei Lin, Jerold Edmondson, John Hale, Richard Wright, Tim and Debbie Vinzani, and Qiannan Minority Teachers College, as well as the audiences at NWAV 34 (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) and the 2006 LSA (Linguistic Society of America) Summer Meeting and anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.