Dialectology proper has traditionally focused on the geographic
distribution of language variation as an end in itself and has remained
relatively segregated from other branches of linguistic and
extra-linguistic inquiry. Cross-fertilizing winds have been blowing through
the field for more than a decade, but much work remains for adequate
synthesis. This book seeks to further the interdisciplinary integration of
the field by highlighting, and harnessing, the many dialectic tensions
inherent in language variation research and dialect definition.
Undertaking a broadscale experiment in applied dialectics, the book
demonstrates multiple grounds for insisting on a more robust, integrational
approach to dialectology while simultaneously demonstrating grounds for
defining the Phula languages of China and Vietnam. The Phula languages
belong to the Burmic sub-branch of the Tibeto-Burman family and are
primarily spoken in southeastern Yunnan Province, China. With origins as
early as the ninth century, these language varieties have been left
undefined, and largely unresearched, for hundreds of years.
Based on extensive original fieldwork, the book identifies 24 synchronic
Phula languages descended from three distinct macro-clades diachronically.
This is accomplished by blending typological-descriptive,
historical-comparative and socio-cognitive perspectives. Diagnostics
include both qualitative and quantitative measurements, and insights from
history, geography, ethnology, language contact, sociolinguistics and more
are called on for data interpretation. This dialogic approach incorporates
complexity by asserting that dialectology itself best flourishes as an
interdependent dialectic - a dynamic synthesis of competing perspectives.