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Modeling the areal diffusion of Chinese dialects: A case study of Suzhou Wu Chinese and its sub-varieties

  • He Huang (Shanghai University)
Thursday 20 June 2019
Chinese Linguistics in Leiden (CHILL)
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This talk aims to model the diffusion of the regional variations of the Suzhou Wu Chinese based on data reported in The Atlas of Suzhou Dialects (Ye, 1981), which includes 50 linguistic maps of Suzhou Wu Chinese and covers 264 localities in the general Suzhou Wu-speaking regions. According to the theme of 50 linguistic maps, 50 linguistic items can be classified into two basic categories: phonological and lexical items. The former is mainly about the merge or divergency of historical sound categories (Middle Chinese phonology) in Suzhou Wu dialects; while the latter is about the different forms of the same word (word realization) used in different dialects. Following the dialectometric approach, we calculated the relative distance values (RDV) of phonological and lexical items between every two localities.

A similarity map reflecting these differences was further plotted, which shows the areal diffusion pattern from the center of Suzhou city to the townships and villages in the suburbs. Results showed that (1) the diffusion of Suzhou Wu Chinese tends to be better explained by the Cascade Model rather than the Wave Model; (2) compared to the results based on the values of the lexical items, the results of phonological items are better explained by the Cascade Model.

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