Concepts in Linguistic Anthropology: Language Ideology, New Chinglish

Q) What is language ideology and what are its main features? What kind of linguistic ideologies are at play in the debates about New Chinglish?

Paul V. Kroskrity defines “language ideologies” as the “beliefs, feelings, and conceptions about language structure and use, which often index the political-economic interests of individual speakers, ethnic and other interest groups, and the nation-state.” (2015, 95) In other words, language ideologies are our beliefs about languages and their users. To further elaborate, it is through language ideologies that people create hierarchies of languages and dialects which leads to languages becoming associated with identity, morality, and esthetics. As an example, a person may link Arabic as being a sacred language, as it is the language used in the scripture of Islam, and thus preferring to use Arabic in trying to communicate with God instead of using his/her native language. Kroskrity presents three main characteristics of the language ideologies approach: positionality, multiplicity, and awareness (2015, 98). Positionality refers to how language ideologies are grounded in both social experience and political-economic interests. Multiplicity is about the plurality of views. In other words, it is the belief that different social divisions within sociocultural groups can produce divergent perspectives. Finally, awareness refers to how members may display a variety of awareness of local language ideologies. That is, how language ideologies are collective and sometimes unconscious or taken-for-granted. 

New Chinglish, as defined by Li Wei, is a variety of English that has been reconstituted, re-appropriated, re-semiotized, and re-inscribed by Chinese speakers of English via new media (2016, 12). In his article, Li describes how New Chinglish composes of regional flavors that are comprehensible to native Chinese speakers, re-appropriated English words and phrases with assigned Chinese meanings, and new inventions of English words and expressions with Chinese characters that are mainly used in social media, which are at times adopted by government officials as well. Li believes that the use of New Chinglish fulfills several functions. I believe that all the ideas embedded in this new form of language reflect the language ideologies attached to it. The functions Li mentions describe how New Chinglish reflects Chinese people’s awareness of the rise of China as a global power and their willingness in becoming a global citizen, in addition to the change in aesthetics of cool under modernity. In short, the meanings some Chinese people attach to New Chinglish serve as a great example of language ideologies that are attached to a newly constructed form of national language consisting of global features, in this case. 

References

Kroskrity, Paul. “Language Ideologies: Emergence, Elaboration, and Application.” In The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology, edited by Nancy Bonvillian, 95-108. Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. 

Li, Wei. “New Chinglish and the Post-Multilingualism Challenge: Translangaging ELF in China.” In Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 5 (1) (2016): 1-25. 

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