Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Students
Primary Theme: Borders
Building on recent sociolinguistic and linguistic-anthropological studies of peripheral multilingualism (e.g., Pietikänen, Kelly-Holmes, Jaffe & Coupland 2016; Sultana, Dovchin, & Pennycook 2013; Wang, Spotti, Juffermans, Cornips, Kroon & Blommaert 2014), this session explores the linguistic ideologies and practices of communities "on the margins of China and Chineseness" (i.e., Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, overseas Chinese communities, and ethnic minority communities where Mandarin is either adopted or imposed) (Shih 2007:4). As terrains on which ideological conflicts and tensions are most intensely played out, the margins of nation-states are often where the hegemony of national languages is challenged, where the arbitrary nature of linguistic norms is exposed, and where notions about language that have been treated as "common sense" at the center are problematized. Not only do they shed considerable light on the criteria and processes at work in valorizing linguistic resources, but they also provide fertile ground for the investigation of how people make sense of competing understandings of language, power, and legitimacy, which are evident in issues surrounding authenticity, language ownership, and language boundary-making. Speakers in peripheral sites are often compelled to take up stances in relation to competing language ideologies and competing ways of using language. By doing so, they contribute to the creation and transformation of language norms, categories, and practices.
Despite different experiences in their respective countries and communities, people in the Chinese peripheries are bound together by a shared history of (Han) Chinese colonialism and migration spanning several centuries, and they all bear historically contested and politically charged relationships to China and Chineseness (Shih 2011). This session explores the ways in which language mediates these relationships. While Chineseness has been so thoroughly naturalized that it is rarely called into question by those at the center, a more complex picture emerges when we move to the margins, where the socially constructed nature of Chineseness comes into full view. This session investigates how people in the Chinese peripheries assert, resist, and redefine Chineseness through language. With the rise of mainland China in the last few decades, Putonghua (standard Mandarin) and the simplified script have also become more prominent in the Chinese peripheries. Their increasing prevalence presents an excellent opportunity to examine how the "standard language ideology" (Lippi-Green 1997; Milroy & Milroy 1985) is reproduced and challenged on a transnational scale. A focus on the Chinese peripheries also encourages us to consider the ways in which lesser-known Sinitic languages and dialects, as well as non-Sinitic languages spoken in ethnic minority communities in Taiwan and mainland China, are marginalized under the dominance of not only Mandarin but also other Sinitic languages (e.g., Cantonese) that have long functioned as regional lingua francas. This session will demonstrate how research on the linguistic ideologies and practices of communities on the fringes of geopolitical China can provide fresh insights into the global spread of languages, the hegemony of the standard, and the relationship between race, ethnicity, and nationality.