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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Academic Paper


Title: One size fits all? Dialectometry in a small clan-based indigenous society
Author: James N. Stanford
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~linguist/faculty/stanford.html
Institution: Dartmouth College
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Sui
Abstract: In many societies, dialectometry has revealed strong correlations between geographic distances and dialect differences (e.g., Gooskens, 2005; Heeringa & Nerbonne, 2001; Nerbonne, 2009, 2010). But what happens when dialectometry is applied to a small, clan-based society such as the indigenous Sui people of rural southwest China? The Sui results show a strong correlation between dialect difference and geographic distance, thus supporting Nerbonne and Kleiweg's (2007) Fundamental Dialectological Postulate. A new culturally specific computation, “rice paddy distance,” also provides a strong correlation with dialect differences. However, the study finds that some dialectometry patterns of larger societies are not “compressible” into small societies such as Sui. Clan exogamy also poses challenges for dialectometry. Nonetheless, the overall results show that basic principles of dialect variation in space can be generalized cross-culturally, even across very different cultures. This paper also suggests a “lower limit” for dialectology, that is, the smallest distance where regional dialectology may be relevant, all other things being equal.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Language Variation and Change Vol. 24, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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