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Effects of Media Exposure on Regional Associations

A case study of Mandarin aspectual you

Chun-Yi Peng
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies

Abstract

Although there is a long-standing tradition discounting the effect of media exposure on language variation, this study shows how televised media formulate and reinforce the sociosemiotic links between linguistic features and their regional associations. The Mandarin aspect marker you is an interesting case in this regard, as it is semiotically linked mostly, if not exclusively, to Taiwanese Mandarin by many Chinese mainlanders, even though the feature is, in fact, also observed in many southern Mandarin varieties on the mainland. Drawing upon Agha’s concept of enregisterment, the goals of this study are 1) to provide empirical evidence of the semiotic work that media do to language, and 2) to test whether exposure to Taiwanese televised media contributes to the mismatch between the regional association and actual geographical distribution of the aspect marker you. The findings of this study suggest two levels of media influence: meta-awareness and indexicality. The relationships between these two levels are incremental and mutually constitutive, and televised media play the role of catalyzing these reciprocal processes.

Acknowledgements

Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award (Award # 60022-00 48), jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York. An earlier version of this paper was presented at New Waves of Analyzing Variation 48. I thank Dr. Jane Stuart-Smith for her insightful feedback. I am also greatly indebted to Dr. Cheng-Shi Shiu for his statistical consultation. All errors are solely my own.

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Published Online: 2020-08-19
Published in Print: 2020-08-26

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