|Native to||China, Vietnam|
|Region||Guizhou (93%), Guangxi, Yunnan|
|Latin script, Sui script, Chinese characters|
The Sui language (simplified Chinese: 水语; traditional Chinese: 水語; pinyin: Shuǐyǔ) is a Kam–Sui language spoken by the Sui people of Guizhou province in China. According to Ethnologue, it was spoken by around 300,000 people in 2007. Sui is also unique for its rich inventory of consonants, with the Sandong (三洞) dialect having as many as 70 consonants. The language also has its own script, known as "Shuishu" (水書) in Chinese, which is used for ritual purposes.
Some regionally atypical features of the Sui language include voiceless nasals (hm, hn), palatal stops, postvelar stops, prenasalized stops (mb, nd), and pre-glottalized stops and nasals (i.e. ʔb, ʔm).
The Sui language is divided into three dialects with minor differences (Wei & Edmondson 2008).
- Sandong 三洞, spoken by 90% of Sui speakers.
- Yang'an 阳安
- Pandong 潘洞
However, Castro (2011) proposes that the Sandong dialect is divided further into two more subdialects, Central (spoken in Sandu County) and Southern (spoken in Libo County). Southern Sui speakers are also culturally distinguished by their celebration of the Maox festival instead of the Dwac festival, which is celebrated by all other Sui groups. Below are some villages representative of Central and Southern Sui. Castro & Pan (2014) add two more dialects to the Sandong cluster, namely Eastern and Western.
Castro & Pan (2014) consider Sandong to consist of four subdialects, namely Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern, giving the following datapoints.
- Sandong 三洞
- Yang'an 阳安
- Pandong 潘洞
Using computational phylogenetics, Castro & Pan (2014) classify the Sui dialects as follows. Pandong was the first branch to split off from Proto-Sui, followed by Yang'an and then Sandong. Within Sandong, the Southern dialect is the most divergent.
- Pandong 潘洞 dialect
- Yang'an 阳安 dialect
- Sandong 三洞 dialect
- Western, Central
Sui is also spoken in Hồng Quang Village, Chiêm Hoá District, Tuyên Quang Province (62 km northwest of Chiêm Hoa City). In Vietnam, the Sui are known as Thủy, but are officially classified with the Pà Thẻn people. The Sui numbered only 55 people as of the 1982 Vietnamese census, and numbered about 100 people as of 2001. Since Pa-Hng (Pà Thẻn) and Tày are also spoken in Hồng Quang Village, many Sui are also fluent in those two languages.
The elderly Sui people of Hồng Quang claim that 8 Sui families had migrated to Vietnam from China 100 to 200 years ago, 2 of which have now already assimilated into other ethnic groups. Edmondson & Gregerson (2001) have found that the Sui dialect of Hồng Quang is most similar to the Sandong 三洞 dialect of Sui as spoken in Shǔilóng 水龙, Sandu Shui Autonomous County, Guizhou, China.
Sui has seven vowels, /i e ə a aː o u/. Diphthongs are /ai̯ aːi̯ oi̯ ui̯ au̯ aːu̯ eu̯ iu̯/. There are six or seven tones, reduced to two in checked syllables. The tones of the Sandu Sui Autonomous County, Guizhou, listed by conventional tone numbers, are:
|#||Sandu Sui county|
|6||6a: high (6b: mid rising)||6a: ˥ (6b: ˨˦)|
|7||checked high (checked high rising)||˥C (long: ˧˥C)|
The alternate checked tone 7 is found on the long vowel /aːC/. Tone 8 is somewhat variable on a long vowel, appearing in different locations either higher or lower than the short allophone, but always falling, as in tones 2 and 4.
In some villages, tone 6 is two phonemes, /˨˦/ in native words and /˥/ in Chinese loanwords. In the village of Ngam, Libo county, tone 1 is low [˩], the others as above.
|Fricatives||voiceless||f ~ ɸ||s||ʃ||(x)||h|
|Approximants||voiced||ʋ ~ w||l||j||ɣ||ʁ|
Consonants in parentheses were reported by the 1956 dialectology study Shuiyu diaocha baogao, but not in Li Fang Kuei's 1942 research in Libo County. (Labio-velars were not listed separately, so it's not clear if they also existed.)
The laminal postalveolar affricates are not palatalized like the Mandarin postalveolars /tɕ/, /tɕʰ/. /w/ is classed as a labial because it can be followed by a glide /j/. The prenasalized stops have very short nasalization. The voiceless nasals are actually voiced at the end, as most voiceless nasals are around the world. The preglottalized stops are truly preglottalized, not ejective or creaky voiced. The gammas have been described as fricatives, but here have been placed in the approximant row because of the preglottalized phone and the frequent ambiguity between dorsal fricatives and approximants.
In several locations in the Sandu Sui Autonomous County, the preglottalized consonants and the voiceless sonorants do not exist, having merged with the other consonants.
Syllable structure is CjVCT, where /j/ may follow one of the labial or coronal consonants, other than /m̥ ʔm/ (and /ʔw/) and the affricates. (/tsj, tsʰj, tsw, tsʰw/ occur in recent Chinese loans.) All syllables start with a consonant, unless initial [ʔ] is analyzed as phonetic detail of an initial vowel. The final C is one of /p t k m n ŋ/. Final plosives are both unphonated (have glottal closure) and are unreleased; the coronal is apical alveolar: [ʔ͡p̚, ʔ͡t̚, ʔ͡k̚]. They reduce the tonic possibilities to two, "tones" 7 or 8.
The Sui script (Sui: le1 sui3, Simplified Chinese: 水书, Traditional Chinese: 水書, Pinyin: Shuǐshū) is a logographic writing system with some pictographic characters that can be used to write the Sui language (Wei 2003:xxix). However, traditionally only shamans were familiar with the writing system, and it is not utilized for everyday use by ordinary Sui people. This system is used for geomancy and divination purposes. There are at least 500 different Sui characters, known as le1 sui3 in the Sui language (Wei 2003:xxix). According to tradition, these characters were created by ljok8 to2 qong5 (Chinese Lù Duógōng 陸鐸公). Some of these characters are pictoral representations, such as of a bird or a fish, and a few are schematic representations of a characteristic quality, such a snail represented by a drawing of an inward curving spiral. Many of these characters appear to be borrowings from Chinese characters and are written backwards, apparently for increased supernatural power. Today, the Sui people use written Chinese for their daily activities.
The Sui script is in acute danger of extinction, although the Chinese government is currently attempting to preserve it. In 2006, Shuishu was placed on the Chinese intangible cultural heritage list. In 2018, discussion on Shuishu integration into Unicode were ongoing.
- Sui at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- "Sui alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sui". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Wei, James, and Jerold A. Edmondson (2008). "Sui." In Diller, Anthony, Jerold A. Edmondson, and Yongxian Luo ed. The Tai–Kadai Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Psychology Press, 2008.
- Guangxi Minority Languages Orthography Committee. 2008. Vocabularies of Guangxi ethnic languages [广西民族语言方音词汇]. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House [民族出版社].
- Edmondson, J.A. and Gregerson, K.J. 2001, "Four Languages of the Vietnam-China Borderlands", in Papers from the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, ed. K.L. Adams and T.J. Hudak, Tempe, Arizona, pp. 101-133. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies.
- “水书”及其造字方法研究,黔南民族师范学院学报, 2005年25卷1期
- Multilingualism in China. Minglang Zhou, Minglang Zhou, Joshua A. Fishman, page 132-135
- "Books in rare ancient characters of Shui group retrieved". People's Daily. April 1, 2004. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- "Shui included in China's intangible cultural heritage list". National Working Group for IPR Protection, Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. August 8, 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-28.[dead link]
- West, Andrew; Chan, Eiso (2018-06-01), Analysis of Shuishu character repertoire (PDF)
- (in Chinese) 張均如，《水語簡誌》，北京：民族出版社，1980。
- Castro, Andy and Pan Xingwen. 2014. Sui Dialect Research [水语调查研究]. Guiyang: Guizhou People's Press.
- Stanford, James N. 2009. "Eating the food of our place": Sociolinguistic loyalties in multidialectal Sui villages. Language in Society 38(3):287-309.
- Stanford, James N. 2008. A sociotonetic analysis of Sui dialect contact. Language Variation and Change 20(3):409-50.
- Stanford, James N. 2008. Child dialect acquisition: New perspectives on parent/peer influence. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12(5):567-96.
- Stanford, James N. 2007. Sui Adjective Reduplication as Poetic Morpho-phonology. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 16(2):87-111.
- Wei Xuecun and Jerold A. Edmondson. 2003. Sui (Shui)-Chinese-Thai-English Dictionary. Salaya, Thailand: Mahidol University.
- ABVD: Sui word list
- Wei Xuecun, Jerold A. Edmondson, Somsonge Burusphat (eds). 2003. Sui (Shui)-Chinese-Thai-English Dictionary. Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University, 395 pp. ISBN 974-9574-54-0.
- Jerold Edmondson, John Esling, Jimmy Harris, and James Wei, "A phonetic study of the Sui consonants and tones" Mon–Khmer Studies 34:47–66
- Fang-Kuei Li, "The Distribution of Initials and Tones in the Sui Language", Language, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1948), pp. 160–167, available through JSTOR.
- Sui language at UPSID
- "Cracking the Chinese code", People's Daily Online, September 16, 2008
- "China to hold int'l symposium on rare ancient characters of ethnic Shui group", People's Daily Online, December 28, 2005