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Language use difference and social group differentiation: Immigrants’ negotiation of an imposed category of lau in bilingual Guangzhou

Jing Huang
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  • Department of Linguistics and English Language, County South, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YL, UK
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Published Online: 2018-09-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0014


This study is situated in a bilingual community of Guangzhou where the local speech Cantonese used to have comparable power to the Chinese common language Putonghua regarding the range of domains, but recently a local concern has emerged over the declining status of Cantonese in association with the large number of immigrants and the vigorous implementation of the state language policy of Putonghua Promotion. This concern has been demonstrated in Guangzhou locals’ boundary-making practices and the categorization of immigrants in relation to language practices. This study aims to investigate the ways in which immigrants take up stances (Du Bois 2007; Alexandra, Jaffe. (ed.). 2009. Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) to negotiate their identities in response to an imposed category of lau. Immigrants’ narratives of and comments on language use in their interactions with natives are analysed, at both semantic and formal levels, from a perspective of Critical Discourse Studies (e.g. Martin, Reisigl & Ruth Wodak. 2015. In Ruth Wodak & Michael Meyer (eds.). Methods of critical discourse studies, 3rd edn. 23–61. London: Sage, Fairclough, Norman. 2015. Language and power 3rd edn. London: Routledge.). As the analysis shows, immigrants negotiate the imposed identity category through coming to terms with the underlying language beliefs, negatively evaluating the social actors who categorize them, recontextualising the category, and combining Putonghua and Cantonese in one language unit to indicate the symbolic oppositions between social groups and languages.

Keywords: stancetaking; language ideologies; identity negotiation


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-09-27

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: Global Chinese, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 293–313, ISSN (Online) 2199-4382, ISSN (Print) 2199-4374, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0014.

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