Urbanization and Dialect Change in Vietnam: Evidence from rural communities near Hanoi

Author: Trinh Cam Lan (USSH Hanoi)
Speaker: Trinh Cam Lan
Topic: Language revitalization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Language variation, change, and contact in Vietnam has indicated an intensification through recent demographic mobilities. As such, certain sociolinguistic patterns exist to assist to describe these changes in language and society. The current study purports to observe, and ‘measure’ dialect change in Vietnam influenced by urbanization, with evidences from two communities in Hanoi, the Co Loa and Xuan Canh speech community, and the Trieu Khuc speech community. As such, the study seeks to investigate the ways in which dialect change in certain Vietnamese regions have developed, predicated on specific social, cultural, and political factors.

The Co Loa and Xuan Canh speech communities evidence a narrowing usage of marked variants, and the Trieu Khuc speech community evidences a dissolution of suburban dialects. For its method, the study employs fieldwork, and subsequent quantitative methods to aid in the analysis. The data set includes 34 informants in Co Loa and Dong Anh community, randomly selected, which were categorized into certain social variables. For the Co Loa and Dong Anh communities, the study released 34 questionnaires, and subsequently produced 11 recorded files of natural speech, from which emerged two sets of 34 recorded files of word lists and text. For the Trieu Khuc community, the study employed six semi-structured interviews, all recorded, which produced six recorded files of word lists and text. Six informants in the Trieu Khuc community were selected in three different age groups to identify age-based language changes, which reflect diachronic language changes.

The Co Loa and Xuan Canh speech communities indicate a gradual reduction of frequency of use of marked variants. This trend appears by observing changing social variables sensitive to urbanization, such as age, education, career, and prospects. Here, the quantitative correlations proved statistically significant.

Rather than seeking diachronic evidence for dialect decline, the research attempts to locate synchronic factors predicated on age, so to landscape this diachronic change. The results of the comparison of the local tone variants among 3 age groups indicates a tendency to gradually lose local dialect variants.

The state of dialect change in these two communities thus signifies a phenomenon common to Vietnamese rural communities under the effect of the urbanization, that is, a tendency emerging consequent to language urbanization in Vietnam.

Keywords: local variant, marked variant, social variables, speech community, dialect, urbanization, dialect change, dialect decline