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What is the relation between the two pronunciations shéi and shuí of 谁?

Ross and Ma Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar seems not to mention shuí, while two different series of readers with pinyin and characters both use shuí excessively.

On line I find every possible answer: some say it is a matter of taste, some say it is regional, some say literary versus colloquial/

In the question Are the two pronunciations of 谁 (shéi / shuí) the result of regional differences? , moderator songyuan expresses an opinion that shéi might be more common in speech. Besides that moderator songyuan labels this "IMO," rather than as fact, it does not even say whether the pronunciation is regional or not. And regionalism is not the only possible relation between the pronunciations.

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  • @Claw That question has one helpful answer, but does not answer the question. It says "Most dictionaries include both" pronunciations (which I am sure is true).and moderator songyuanyao says "IMO, shéi seems to be used more in spoken language." – Colin McLarty Mar 22 '20 at 20:26
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    shuí is the standard authentic pronunciation, obvious from the phonetic 隹 zhuī. There might be some linguistic rule which can explain the transformation into shéi, but by all accounts and lacking any other explanation, the default position should be that shéi is some kind of colloquialism from shuí. – dROOOze Mar 23 '20 at 4:35
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    MoE's official dictionary lists shui2 as the literary pronunciation of 誰 (shui2, (誰)之讀音), and 百度詞典 (although not authoritative in the PRC) also says the same (shui2 爲讀音... shei2 爲語音), so at the very least, it's defined as a literary-colloquial difference. – wang_xiao_ming Mar 23 '20 at 16:47
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    Worth noting is that in 现代汉语词典, shuí is listed as a variant reading (shéi 的又音) and the main entry is found under shéi. – Olle Linge Mar 23 '20 at 21:06
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Quote from “谁”字注音规范化探讨(现代语文(语言研究版), Modern Chinese, 2007年11期 )

摘要:"谁"在现实生活中应用十分广泛,可就是这样一个常用字,人们有时读"shuí",有时读"shéi",即使同一个人,在相同的语言环境中,对"谁"的读音也是模棱两......

This is all what I can see without an account.

And it suggests that even the same person cannot form a fixed pattern as when to use "shui2" or "shei2".

Maybe the full article can provide more information.

As a native, I can say that I don't know either. So the two pronunciations might just be two possible pronunciations of the same character, both widely used, and mostly interchangeable.

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    This is how I would pronounce it depending on where it is in the sentence. It's just a habit I suppose. "谁, (shei), 是你的爸爸“?"你的爸爸是谁,(shui)"? I think it is because when it occurs at the end of a question, I use "shui" as it seems more emphatic and probably have more time to articulate and drag out the "u" a bit, than when at the start of a sentence – Wayne Cheah Mar 23 '20 at 3:31
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Believe me, we all pronounce "shéi" in our everyday lives, and "shuí" is usually reserved for solemn occasions and highly emotional poetry readings.

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