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English as Eastern: Zhuang, Mongolian, Mandarin, and English in the linguistic orders of globalized China

Alexandra Grey ORCID logo and Gegentuul Baioud ORCID logo


Socially constructed and globally propagated East-West binaries have influenced language ideologies about English in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but they are not hegemonic. This essay explores how East-West language ideologies are reformed in mergers with Mandarin-minority language ideologies. It discusses two separate but similar recent studies of minority language speakers and language ideologies in the PRC, respectively by Grey and Baioud. Each study reveals aspects of how Mandarin and English are being socially constructed as on the same side of a dichotomous and hierarchic linguistic and social order, in contradistinction to minority languages. The essay thus problematizes the construction of English as a Western language and Mandarin as an Eastern language; both in academic discourses and in wider social and political discourses. The essay uses Asif Agha’s theory of “enregisterment” to unify the points drawn from each study. It concludes that the language ideologies and practices/discourses under examination reproduce the displacement of a subaltern status; we describe this process as dynamic, internal Orientalism and “recursive” Orientalism, drawing on foundational theory of language ideologies. This essay paves the way for further studies of recursive Orientalism.

Corresponding author: Alexandra Grey, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia, E-mail:

Funding source: Macquarie University Department of Linguistics Research Extension Fund

Award Identifier / Grant number: 5201400089

Funding source: International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship 2014–2017

Funding source: Australia Postgraduate Award 2013–2016

Funding source: University of Sydney Compact Postdoctoral Fellowship 2018–2021

  1. Research funding: The author Alexandra Grey was supported by Macquarie University Department of Linguistics Research Extension Fund, under the grant 5201400089; Australia Postgraduate Award 2013–2016; and University of Sydney Compact Postdoctoral Fellowship 2018–2021. And the author Gegentuul Baioud was supported by International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship 2014–2017.


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Received: 2020-06-30
Accepted: 2021-03-15
Published Online: 2021-09-15
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

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