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This paper presents the findings of a dialect survey carried out in the Sandawe language area of Tanzania in June and August 2003. This survey was undertaken in order to determine whether different varieties of Sandawe exist and to obtain relevant information about any such varieties. We hoped that based on this information we could judge the suitability of a trial Sandawe orthography currently in development and establish which variety is the best reference dialect for literature development.
In section 2 below, the background to the SIL International Sandawe project is summarised. Following this, in section 3, the ethnographic context of the Sandawe language, its classification, and the previous research into the language are discussed. In section 4, the purpose and methodology of the current research is explained. The following methods were used to gather information: a language attitudes survey, a wordlist task, and a grammar questionnaire. The results of each of these three components of the survey are then discussed in section 5.
In conclusion, it is stated that the Sandawe language may be divided into two main varieties: western and eastern. The differences between these two dialects are slight and present themselves in pronunciation features, lexis, grammatical phenomena, and differing uses of taboo language. The western variety may be further subdivided into a western and a central variety, but the differences are very slight. The trial Sandawe orthography is judged to be suitable for all varieties of Sandawe. The western dialect is spoken by more people and is the more prestigious of the two main dialects. It was therefore decided to use this dialect as a reference dialect for written Sandawe.