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Language Reform and Nation-Building in Early Twentieth-Century China: A Critique of Bourdieu

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Abstract:

Language nationalization is the ideology and practice of expecting that all members of a national community be able to speak one language that symbolizes national identity. Previous attempts to explain how language becomes national have been heavily structuralist and state-centric, Pierre Bourdieu’s in particular. Bourdieu conceived of language as forming a linguistic "field" of power that operates like a market. Individual actors are thought of as competing in this market for ever greater linguistic perfect and distinction and their concomitant rewards in economic and symbolic capital. This paper outlines the weaknesses of this market-like, state-centric approach and presents an alternative approach. This alternative model that conceives of competency in a language as a "key" with which an individual is able to gain access to a different social world: e.g., access to better jobs in a broader geographical area, access to elite status groups. Basic competency, with varying levels of situational stringency, rather than perfection, is the criterion for access. The desirability of that social world determines the rate at which individuals adopt an effectively foreign language, whether "national" or not. This alternative conception offers a more global perspective: it expands the geographical and temporal scope of the Bourdieusian approach by not being limited to the European case in the post-French Revolutionary period, and it leads to more plausible empirical approaches to studying language in society by combining assessments of state policy with economic change and individual motivation.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

languag (255), nation (201), state (125), chines (103), china (99), linguist (80), bourdieu (63), standard (62), centuri (60), educ (48), univers (48), one (47), classic (47), social (46), modern (46), vernacular (45), system (43), power (42), new (42), french (42), press (39),
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Name: American Sociological Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.asanet.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p721554_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Weng, Jeffrey. "Language Reform and Nation-Building in Early Twentieth-Century China: A Critique of Bourdieu" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, Aug 15, 2014 <Not Available>. 2016-06-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p721554_index.html>

APA Citation:

Weng, J. , 2014-08-15 "Language Reform and Nation-Building in Early Twentieth-Century China: A Critique of Bourdieu" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco, San Francisco, CA Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2016-06-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p721554_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Language nationalization is the ideology and practice of expecting that all members of a national community be able to speak one language that symbolizes national identity. Previous attempts to explain how language becomes national have been heavily structuralist and state-centric, Pierre Bourdieu’s in particular. Bourdieu conceived of language as forming a linguistic "field" of power that operates like a market. Individual actors are thought of as competing in this market for ever greater linguistic perfect and distinction and their concomitant rewards in economic and symbolic capital. This paper outlines the weaknesses of this market-like, state-centric approach and presents an alternative approach. This alternative model that conceives of competency in a language as a "key" with which an individual is able to gain access to a different social world: e.g., access to better jobs in a broader geographical area, access to elite status groups. Basic competency, with varying levels of situational stringency, rather than perfection, is the criterion for access. The desirability of that social world determines the rate at which individuals adopt an effectively foreign language, whether "national" or not. This alternative conception offers a more global perspective: it expands the geographical and temporal scope of the Bourdieusian approach by not being limited to the European case in the post-French Revolutionary period, and it leads to more plausible empirical approaches to studying language in society by combining assessments of state policy with economic change and individual motivation.


Similar Titles:
Linguistic Modernity: The Limits of Ideology and State Power in the Creation of Modern Standard Languages


 
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