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Language attitudes in Ningbo, China

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With its rapid economic development, China has become more and more multilingual in the 21st century, though research on languages, communities, and identities in contemporary Chinese society is still severely under-developed. In this talk, I investigate young adults’ attitudes to different languages/varieties, and how they co-exist with the state’s language ideology and policies in Ningbo in Eastern China, where the economic impact has brought remarkable social and linguistic changes. The goal is to understand what language standards exist in China and how younger generations (aged 18-25) perceive these ideologies in a fast-changing multilingual society.

I will present data collected from 40 university students based at universities in Ningbo through interviews and questionnaires. The participants are locally-born Ningbonese and their perception of Putonghua, local vernacular dialect (Wu dialect), and English are analysed, focusing on their general attitudes towards each variety.

Qualitative and qualitative analyses will show that these students view the three language varieties differently, and this is tied to the practical value of the varieties. Perhaps surprisingly, variation within and across varieties is met with little resistance or intolerance despite the overall monolingual ideology.

This talk is part of the MEITS Multilingualism Seminars series.

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