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

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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.


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