A Sociolinguistic Survey of the Dejing Zhuang Dialect Area

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Statement of Responsibility:
Jackson, Eric M. [芮建生], Emily H. S. Jackson [石悦琳] and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧]
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2012-036
168 pages

This report presents the results of a dialect intelligibility survey carried out in 2008 in the southwestern part of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, described by Zhang et al. (1999) as the Dejing dialect area of Southern Zhuang. The Zhuang varieties surveyed in this area have been grouped into the Central branch of Taic languages. This survey of nineteen locations across the dialect area found evidence from intelligibility, from similarity of wordlists (as determined by a string edit distance algorithm), and from speaker attitudes for assigning them to at least two distinct ISO 639-3 language codes, [zyg] “Yang Zhuang” and [zgm] “Minz Zhuang”.

Previous published sources claimed that the variety of Yang spoken in the county seat of Jingxi County is well understood across the region. This survey tested this claim with recorded text tests (RTTs) from the county seat and a nearby rural area, and found them to be well understood across most of the Dejing area. Through comparison with the wordlist similarity results, however, this intelligibility is inherent only for a subset of the surveyed varieties; these varieties represent a cluster that is herein referred to as Yang-Nong, and includes several Zhuang varieties from this area. The high intelligibility of Jingxi Yang by speakers of other varieties is due to acquired ability in Jingxi Yang. Initial intelligibility results indicate another cluster of mutually-intelligible varieties in the area which we refer to as Min-Zong and which appears to correspond to the Minz of Yunnan Province; further fieldwork is needed to verify this in a more representative sample of these varieties.

Sociolinguistic questionnaires were administered in order to measure residents’ attitudes toward these language varieties and factors relevant for language planning. The results indicate that Jingxi Yang is viewed very positively over a large area, though in particular areas local sociolinguistically-prominent varieties of Zhuang are preferred.

Based on the data from wordlist similarity, inherent intelligibility, and sociolinguistic attitudes, a variety of Yang would work very well as a standard or basis for language development efforts among Yang-Nong communities, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the Zhuang in the Dejing dialect area; we propose that documentation of the ISO code [zyg] “Yang Zhuang”, previously taken to apply to most Zhuang varieties in the area, be amended to include only those Zhuang varieties that fall under Yang-Nong. Language development among Min-Zong communities in the area, accounting for another one-sixth of the areas’ Zhuang, would benefit from development based on a variety of Min or Zong; we propose that documentation of the ISO code [zgm] “Minz Zhuang”, previously thought to apply only to a small group of speakers in Yunnan Province, be amended to also include the Min-Zong communities found in this survey. Language development efforts among most of the remaining one-sixth of the Zhuang population of the Dejing area would require other varieties as a basis, but for many of these varieties, Jingxi Yang could likely still be used as a means of widespread communication.

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Language surveys
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AR PL UMing CN font for the source file
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], Emily Jackson [石悦琳] and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researchers
Jackson, Eric [芮建生] and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researchers
Castro, Andy [康蔼德], consultant; Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧]and Eric Jackson [芮建生], researchers
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], Emily Jackson [石悦琳] and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], interviewers
Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧] and Emily Ho [贺政萍], interviewers
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], transcriber; Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researcher
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], transcriber; Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researcher
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], transcriber and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researcher
Castro, Andy [康蔼德], consultant; Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧]and Huáng JúXiù [黄菊秀], researchers; Eric Jackson [芮建生], transcriber
Jackson, Eric [芮建生], transcriber and Lau Shuh Huey [刘淑慧], researcher
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