Conflicting Linguistic Identities: Language Choices of Parents and their Children in Rural Migrant Workers' Families

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This study explores the interaction between rural migrant workers’ (RMWs) language ideologies, linguistic identities and their family language planning activities in China. Focusing on language choices of RMW parents and their children, the study involves eight families who migrated from rural to urban areas. Data were collected through home observations, recorded family conversations and semi-structured interviews. The findings reveal that RMWs experience conflicting identities instantiated by their language choices and language practices. Tangled in multiple identities, such as temporary urban residents, undereducated low-paid labourers, homesick rural-urban migrants and trustworthy employees, they frequently face the predicament of having to choose between either Putonghua (the official language in China, also known as the common speech) or hometown fangyans (also known as regional dialects) or local fangyans to deal with everyday issues. The association between identities and language ideologies drive RMWs to intentionally use Putonghua as language management strategy at home. Consequently, the language choices of both parents and their children show a shift from fangyan to Putonghua. The findings also suggest that parental language ideologies and planning activities in home domains are shaped by macro social systems, public discourse and language planning at a national level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-426
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number4
Early online date5 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021


  • Rural migrant workers
  • family language policy and planning
  • language ideologies
  • linguistic identities
  • rural migrant children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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