Ideologies of language and social class:
Explaining variation in Taiwan Mandarin
through a language ideology framework
Dominika Baran, Duke University
NWAV 39, UT San Antonio, Nov.6, 2010
• Social divisions as defined by specific communities; locally
relevant meanings of class identities (Rickford 1986, Milroy
1980, 2001, Ash 2002)
• Local interpretation of social divisions that exist in society at
large (Eckert 1989, 2000; also Fuller yesterday)
• Social class as comprising lifestyles, tastes, cultural practices
(Bourdieu 1984, 1987, 1991; also this panel and Davies
• ‘sets of beliefs about language articulated by users as a
rationalization or justification of perceived language structure
and use’ (Silverstein 1979: 193)
• ‘…mediating links between social forms and forms of talk
[because they] envision and enact ties of language to identity, to
aesthetics, to morality, and to epistemology’ (Woolard 1998: 3)
• ‘are always about entangled clusters of phenomena, and they
encompass and are bound up with aspects of culture like gender,
and expression, and being “civilized”’ (Kulick 1998: 100)
Population and languages:
• 73.3% Taiwanese
• 12% Hakka
• 1.7% Austronesian
• 13% Mandarin (Mainlanders)
• High school in Sanchong
(Taipei County) – Sunrise Senior
High School (SHS)
• Working-class, migrants from
Taiwanese and Mandarin
• Mandarin introduced and promoted after 1945
– KMT nationalism
– Official language and language of education
– Students often punished for speaking Taiwanese (until 1987)
• Result Taiwanese ideologically connected with lower-class
identities and practices (lack of education, blue-collar work,
rural residence, ‘local’ lifestyle)
• Recent changes
– Taiwanese taught in schools as a subject
– BUT language of education is still Mandarin
– Taiwanese is NOT tested on high school and college entrance exams
• Localized variety of Mandarin exhibiting distinct phonological,
syntactic and lexical features
• Dominant discourses see it as “badly learned” Mandarin (Lin 1983)
– Often described as a Taiwanese “accent”
– Seen in contrast to “Standard” Mandarin (schools, media)
– Associated with similar social groups and practices as Taiwanese but often
evaluated even lower (Feifel 1994, Su 2005)
– You can speak good Taiwanese but you can’t speak good Taiwan Mandarin!
• Speakers for whom Mandarin is a native and dominant language
use many Taiwan Mandarin features (Cheng 1984, Kubler 1986)
– Range of variation but few studies (but see e.g. Rau and Li 1994, Li 1995)
• Private high school in Sanchong City, in Taipei County, just
outside the capital Taipei
• School has academic (college preparatory) and vocational
courses or tracks
– Data-processing (white-collar vocational)
– Electronics (blue-collar vocational)
• Students directed into tracks based on exam scores
• Rigid separation > classes stay in one classroom, little
interaction, highly structured day
• Emphasis on academics > prepare for college entrance exams
• Emphasis on college-prep students > more resources
• Vocational students speak more Taiwanese
Participants at Sunrise SHS
• 18 students, 6 from each course/track
• 11 boys and 7 girls (electronics has no girls)
• Ethnographic research over 3 semesters + interviews
Mandy, Jenny, Tania, Richard, Ken, Brian
University plans: Naomi, Sue, Jerry
Tech college plans: Tina, Olga
No higher ed plans: Eddie
University plans: J.R.
Tech college plans: Wen-hua, Xue-dai
No higher ed plans: Zhen-yi, Ting, Xiao Qiu
3174 234 140 176
(w) glide deletion 2733 221 100 152
Variation in (sh) and (w)
Social group % [s] % [w] deletion
Course: College-prep 55.5 5.4
Data-processing 63.2 5.3
Electronics 90.1 23.3
Gender: Boys 76.6 16.3
Girls 58.5 3.6
Plans/aspirations: University 57.4 10.9
Tech college 78.7 15.3
No higher ed 90.8 22.1
TOTAL 68.9 11.0
(sh) variable – probability of [s] (de-retroflection)
Course / Track
mean = 0.712
mean = 0.387mean = 0.416
(w) variable – probability of [w] deletion
Course / Track
mean = 0.455
mean = 0.400
mean = 0.651
and no higher
and no higher
(sh) combining course/track and plans/aspirations
Social class at Sunrise SHS
• Student “types” constructed based on particular course/track
– Presumed future occupations
– “Good” students study, “bad” students cause trouble
“Actually I think looking at them I think they don’t really think
as much (…) I think it seems like every day they are just very
happy like that and that’s it/ happy like that/ and like that
they think less/ maybe [because] their exams are different
from ours because they will take exams to get into
[professional certificate schools] and we [want to] get into
university/ so they just care about that/ and then I think they
give me a different feeling/ it seems like they don’t really
think about what they will do when they get out of here/ or
what to do to have a better life”
Taipei County vs. Taipei City
XL: so what do you think is the difference between Taipei City
and Taipei County?
J: I think there is a big difference/ because I think the feeling
that Taipei City gives me is more modern/ yes because a lot
of developments are all in Taipei City/ and then the feeling
of Taipei County is messy/ chaotic/ because a lot ofthose kinds of
things all happen in Taipei County
XL: what kinds of things?
J: like those (laughs) fights and things/ bad things/ yes because
before I heard that Sanchong is gangsters’ place
XL: gangsters’ place
J: yes/ and here everyone is gangsters and such/ yes so the
feeling it gives me is-/ because before over there a lot of
department stores or like more famous companies are all in Taipei
City/ yes/ and also there all the roads are constructed/ so it gives
people a good feeling/ but in the case of Taipei County well
(laughs) it’s a mess
Mandarin and Taiwanese at Sunrise SHS
“Taiwanese speakers were all more vulgar people, more
people from lower social strata. That is, if your education level
is lower then you will speak Taiwanese. Only those who
haven’t had education will speak Taiwanese. So in- look, you
can sense it, college-prep they don’t speak Taiwanese, data-
processing a little, electronics more, car mechanics even
more. Because car mechanics has the lowest grades in our
school. There even teachers use Taiwanese to talk.”
鑽 石 zuan-shi 中 暑 zhong-shu
1 Caller: [ɔ] xing zuan [su] de [su]-ah not SM [wɔ] and [ʂɨ]
my last name is [su], as in “diamond” (zuan-shi) shi is pronounced as [su]
2 Rep.: zhong shu de shu
[ʂu] as in “heatstroke” (zhong-shu) [su] is misunderstood as [ʂu]
3 Caller: zuan [su] de [su]
[su] as in “diamond”
4 Rep.: zhong shu de shu/ zenme xie ne?
[ʂu] as in “heatstroke”/ how is it written?
5 Caller: [su] tou de [su]-ah
[su] as in “stone” (shi-tou) shi is pronounced as [su]
6 Rep.: shu tou de shu
[ʂu] as in “shu-tou” shu-tou is not a real word
7 Caller: hêⁿ--ah in Taiwanese
8 Rep.: zuobian shi zenme xie/ youbian shi zenme xie ne?
how do you write the left side/ how do you write the right side?
Local meanings of Taiwan Mandarin?
– Glide deletion -[w] 30.8% (mean: 11%, electronics 23.3%)
– De-retroflection [s] 90.3% (mean: 68.9%, electronics 90.1%)
– Looking for local, blue-collar job; proud trouble-maker; rejects school
– Local orientation (Eckert 1989, 2000), home and temple
– Speaks a lot of Taiwanese, prefers local activities to “big city”
– Glide deletion -[w] 9.7%
– De-retroflection [s] 88.3%
– Applying to university in physical education
– Interested in American hip-hop culture and especially dance, traveled
– Speaks Taiwanese, strong links with local culture and friends
– Not a trouble-maker
– Glide-deletion -[w] 0.6% (mean: 11%, data-proc 5.3%)
– De-retroflection [s] 12.6% (mean: 68.9%, data-proc 63.2%)
– Applying to university, very serious about school work
– Glide deletion -[w] 5.8% (mean: 11%, college-prep 5.4%, girls 3.6%)
– De-retroflection [s] 88.2% (mean: 68.9%, college-prep 55.5%, girls 58.5%)
– Serious about school work
– Loves music, sings in a band (albeit set up by school)
– Goes to rock concerts, stays out late, smokes (sometimes)
– Speaks Taiwanese and has positive feelings about it
Taiwan Mandarin and social class
• Reproduction of language ideologies that see Taiwanese and
Taiwan Mandarin as linked with lack of education
– Electronics students use TM features, college-prep do so less
– Data-processing ‘overcompensate’ for being stereotyped?
– See also J.R. in electronics
• Resistance to dominant language ideologies
– College-prep like Tania - use TM and Taiwanese to resist stereotypes?
– Claiming ownership of Mandarin in the school context by localizing it?
• Reinterpretation of dominant ideologies of language and class
in the local context
– Social class in society at large > courses/tracks in school
– Taipei County vs. Taipei City?
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THANKS to Peter L. Patrick
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