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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Changing Economy, Changing Market: A sociolinguistic study of Chinese yuppies Add Dissertation
Author: Qing Zhang Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2001
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics; Anthropological Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin

Abstract: Over the past two decades, the rapid globalization of Mainland China has
led to the establishment of a new international business sector and with it
a new professional group, Mainland Chinese professionals working for
foreign businesses. The mid- and upper-echelon of this group is called
yapishi ‘Chinese yuppies’. This group is undergoing the process of forging
their new social identity.

This dissertation examines the linguistic behavior of a group of yuppies in
Beijing and explores how speakers use linguistic resources to construct
their yuppie style and identity. The hypothesis tested is that patterns of
linguistic variation are related to the interaction between the various
constraints and opportunities which the yuppies face in the international
business sector and their active appropriation of linguistic resources to
construct a Chinese yuppie style and identity. Sociolinguistic variation
methodology is used to test this hypothesis.

Participants in the study consist of two groups: fourteen yuppies and, for
purposes of comparison, fourteen managerial level professionals in state
enterprises. All participants are natives of Beijing and speakers of
Beijing Mandarin. Each group has an equal number of women and men. The
speech data are collected by means of tape-recorded sociolinguistic
interviews. Quantitative analyses using the Variable Rule program are
carried out on four phonological variables: three local Beijing Mandarin
features and a new tone feature that shows an influence from non-Mainland
Mandarin varieties.

Statistical analyses show that the yuppies use Beijing Mandarin variants
significantly less than the state professionals and that they adopt the
full tone from non-Mainland varieties. I argue that by virtue of their
participation in the “transnational Chinese linguistic market”, the yuppies
are developing a cosmopolitan style of Mandarin. Furthermore, gender
difference is mild among the state professionals but dramatic among the
yuppies. Female yuppies overwhelmingly lead in the use of the new Mandarin
style. Explanations for this dramatic gender difference are sought through
looking into the local history of the yuppies’ emergence, differences in
women’s and men’s career trajectories, and the linguistic resources
available to them. All these factors contribute to the development of
their gendered linguistic styles.

Issues examined in this dissertation challenge the traditional variationist
approach which views social identity as static, and community and identity
as territorially based. It emphasizes the interaction among multiple
aspects of social identity and the linguistic construction of identities
situated in time and space. The study pays particular attention to the
social history of linguistic variables as well as the history of social
identities. This dissertation contributes to the recent development of a
practice-based approach to sociolinguistic variation that treats
communities and identities as constituted through shared practices and
social orientation.