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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Academic Paper


Title: A Chinese Yuppie in Beijing: Phonological variation and the construction of a new professional identity
Author: Qing Zhang
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Arizona
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Phonology
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: Recent sociolinguistic studies have given increased attention to the situated practice of members of locally based communities. Linguistic variation examined tends to fall on a continuum between a territorially based "standard" variety and a regional or ethnic vernacular. This article emphasizes the need for sociolinguistics, especially variationist sociolinguistics, to look beyond strictly local contexts and to go beyond treating variation as located along a linear dimension of standard and vernacular. Based on quantitative analysis of four phonological variables among Chinese professionals in foreign and state-owned companies in Beijing, this study demonstrates that professionals in foreign businesses employ linguistic resources from both local and global sources to construct a new cosmopolitan variety of Mandarin, whereas their counterparts in state-owned businesses favor the use of local features. The study shows that variation does not just reflect existing social categories and social change, but is a resource for constructing those categories and participates in social change.

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 34, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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