Voices from the diaspora: changing hierarchies and dynamics of Chinese multilingualism

Li Wei, Zhu Hua

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The so-called Chinese diasporas, i.e. Chinese communities outside Greater China (China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan), have traditionally been dialect dominant; that is, the vast majority of Chinese immigrants are speakers of (especially Southern) dialects. Cantonese and Hokkien are two of the most prominent dialects. With globalization and the rise of China as a world politico-economic power, the national, standardized variety, Putonghua, is gaining particular prestige amongst the Chinese diasporas. For example, all the Cantonese schools for British Chinese children in the UK now also teach Putonghua, but none of the Putonghua schools teach Cantonese. Using ethnographic interviews with and participant observation of Chinese people of different generations in various diasporic communities, this paper examines the changing hierarchies of varieties of Chinese, the implications of such changes for the education and identity development of the young, and the constitution of a (speech) community in the post-modern era. It focuses on language attitude and linguistic practices (including literacy practices). It also investigates the tensions between the competing ideologies and discourses on national and ethnic identities, nationalism, community relations and cultural values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-171
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume2010
Issue number205
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2010

Keywords

  • Chinese diasporas
  • Globalization
  • Language ideology
  • Multilingualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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