“Pride” and “profit”: a sociolinguistic profile of the Chinese communities in Britain

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Abstract

In this study we explore the ongoing social changes and internal differences within the Chinese communities in Britain with regard to language practices, ethnic and cultural affiliations, and intra-community communications. Drawing on the notions of "pride"and "profit", we report on how migratory experiences influence the linguistic practices of the Chinese communities. We argue that "pride"and "profit", as manifested in language practices, are rooted in "prejudice", a consequence of linguistic hierarchies related to broader socio-historical and socio-political systems. Data sources include ethnographic interviews with 15 stakeholders from three community pillars. The data analysis shows three major differences and changes within the communities: the multi-layered make-up of the Chinese communities whose members come from different countries and regions; the replacement of Cantonese with Putonghua as the communities' lingua franca; and the increasing visibility of the Chinese communities in mainstream society. The findings suggest that social changes and language practices are associated with the social meanings of belonging, affiliation and reality, involving a form of symbolic struggle filled with "prejudice". The study emphasises that "pride"and "profit"can make visible and explicit the sources of social inequality that tend to be concealed by neoliberal ideologies and discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)47-72
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology of Language
Volume2021
Issue number269
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
As a part of a large project funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council UK), this study explores the internal differences as reflected in intra-community communications, in the community’s language changes and in its ethnic cultural affiliations. It focuses on how the communities respond to these differences by examining the perspectives of key community members from three community pillars: community centre, community school, and business. In particular, it explores, from a political and economic aspect, how mobility and ongoing changes are taking place, and how migrants’ sense of belonging and language practices are established, negotiated and shaped by social structures and socio-cultural-political conditions.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the journal’s general editor, Alexandre Duchêne, for his guidance and advice, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We would also like to thank all the members of the Chinese community who participated in this project. The data presented in this study came from the project Family Language Policy: A Multi-level Investigation of Multilingual Practices in Transnational Families, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of Great Britain (ES/N019105/1).

Keywords

  • Chinese diasporic communities
  • intra/inter group differences
  • language prejudice
  • language pride
  • language profit
  • social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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