The aim of this study is to analyze and compare tonal systems and acoustic characteristics of tones in four Tai dialects of Phrae Province, Thailand which are Tai Yuan, Lue, Phuan, and Tai Yai as spoken by three groups of speakers grouped by age; over 60 years old, 35-50 years old, and under 25 years old. Three female speakers of each group were asked to pronounce each wordlist. The data were recorded directly to the computer with the use of Adobe Audition version 2 and then were acoustically analyzed by using Praat version 5.1.43. The graphs were drawn by using Microsoft Excel 2007. The results show that tonal systems and acoustic characteristics of tones spoken by the three groups of speakers of the four Tai dialects have varied between generations and changed over time. Tai Yuan tones do not show much variation and change. Some tones of Phuan and Tai Yai have changed in terms of acoustic characteristics, while the Lue tones changed their merger and split pattern and also their acoustic characteristics. Considering the acoustic characteristics, it can be said that Tai dialects spoken in Phrae are influenced by Tai Yuan, the majority language and Standard Thai, the official language. Therefore, we can say that language contact is a very important factor of tonal language variation and change and it is called change in progress which can be seen from the difference of tonal systems and acoustic characteristics as spoken by the three groups of speakers. This linguistic phenomenon is challenging in a diverse community.
Chommanad Intajamornrak, Naresuan University, Thailand
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