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20. Clan as a sociolinguistic variable: Three approaches to Sui clans

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Abstract

As lesser studied minority languages are added to the purview of quantitative variationist sociolinguistics, we naturally expect to see lesser studied sociolinguistic variables brought to the forefront. One such variable is <i>clan</i>. Among the Sui people of southwest China and in many other societies, clan has a powerful sociolinguistic influence. Therefore, following in the tradition of “age as a sociolinguistic variable” (Eckert 1997), “gender as a sociolinguistic variable” (Meyerhoff 1996; Wodak &#38; Benke 1997) and so on, the present article suggests that clan, too, may be viewed as a key player in variationist sociolinguistics. Using insights from Sui and other communities, this chapter investigates clan as a sociolinguistic variable in terms of each of the three approaches to language and identity outlined by Mendoza-Denton (2002): “Sociodemographic categorybased identity,” “practice-based identity,” and “practice-based variation.” Clan is shown to be a highly relevant and meaningful sociolinguistic variable from all three perspectives.

References

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