[lg policy] PhD Thesis - Price, G (2009): 'A Political Sociology of Language in Taiwan'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 4 14:47:35 UTC 2010

 Forwarded From: Gareth Price <gareth.price at duke.edu>

To: lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu

Dear All,

Please find below an abstract and outline of my PhD thesis, 'A
Political Sociology of Language in Taiwan: Local, National and Global
Contexts', which was completed in July 2009 at the University of
Essex. Questions / comments / suggestions are most welcome.

Thanks and best,

PhD Thesis: 'A Political Sociology of Language in Taiwan: Local,
National and Global Contexts'
Author: Gareth O. Price
Institution: Dept. of Language and Linguistics / Dept. of Sociology,
University of Essex
Supervisors: David Britain (Dept. of Language and Linguistics);
Yasemin Soysal (Dept. of Sociology)
Date of completion: July 2009


Changing political and social structures affect language ideologies
and practices in unexpected ways; in turn, language practices and
ideologies themselves influence socio-political processes, and produce
unintended effects. The study of the interface between language and
social and political structures has been the concern of theorists of
nationalism at least since Renan. Political or social interventions in
language practices and beliefs are broadly conceived as ‘language
policies’, usually implemented at the national level (Spolsky, 2004).
However, in the post-national era (Soysal 1994), these issues cannot
solely be explained from the nation-state perspective, as they are
influenced by both local and global contexts.

Taiwan is used as a case study for a number of reasons. As a
multilingual society with a long history of colonisation,
re-colonisation, and decolonisation, the battles fought over the
politics of language mirror other contexts. However, Taiwan’s
political and sociolinguistic situation has had a unique historical
trajectory, and it now finds itself articulating a national identity
while being at the same time diplomatically isolated from the
international community. Policies to promote indigenous and
autochthonous languages are in tension with policies to promote
English to ‘connect Taiwan to the world.’ What socio-political
structures and historical processes have influenced Taiwan’s
linguistic situation? How are linguistic nationalisms produced in and
by local contexts? How are they articulated in the post-national and
denationalised context of globalisation? If it is possible to dislodge
the nation-state as the dominant unit of analysis, why is it more
difficult to decentre the concept of a ‘national language’?

This thesis adopts an interdisciplinary perspective to address these
questions. Drawing on (and critiquing) paradigms from
sociolinguistics, sociology, and political theory, it develops a
notion of a political sociology of language (cf. Mueller, 1973;
Mazrui, 1976; de Swaan, 2001) from a comparative historical
perspective. It finds that monolingual policies do not necessarily
produce monolingual polities; the absence of a policy is not evidence
of a lack of political intervention in language; and that pluralism is
no guarantee of multilingualism.

Chapter 1 outlines Taiwan's socio-political and linguistic background,
and describes the rationale and structure of the thesis.

Chapter 2 addresses the theoretical aspects of inter-disciplinary
language study, particularly the use of critical theory in language
policy research, and the theorisation of local, national and global
language contexts.

Chapters 3 and 4 locate the study in its historical dimension,
examining changing migration and colonisation practices and their
relation to discourses on language in Taiwan from early Chinese
encounters with the island, through Dutch Colonial rule in the 17th
century, to the period of Japanese colonisation and Chinese
Nationalist Martial Law in the 20th century.

Chapter 5 outlines the methodology for an ethnographic study of
language policy in the democratic era, which is discussed in the
following two chapters.

Chapter 6 presents the attempts by the pro-independence DPP to
inculcate a pluralistic language-in-education policy to rectify
Taiwan's long history of repression of minority languages, as well as
develop a unified Taiwanese national identity distinct from China. The
success of the policy's implementation is assessed through data from
in-depth interviews with county education department heads and school
principals, and analysis of media, popular and political discourses on
language and ethnic/national identity. It finds that the idealistic
goals of the policy are stymied by structural conditions such as
uneven socio-economic development, and a perception that 'local'
languages are not useful for individual socio-economic mobility.

Chapter 7 draws on the same technique to examine the role of English
in contemporary Taiwanese society. Envisaged as 'connecting Taiwan to
the world' in the global context, it acts as a gatekeeper to higher
education in local contexts, and has the potential to undermine the
new national language policy's focus on inclusion by sustaining, and
even creating, socio-economic divisions along ethno-linguistic and
rural/urban lines. Furthermore, the chapter analyses the very
different dynamics between, on the one hand, the in-migration of
English native-speakers from 'inner-circle' nations as teachers in
private language institutions, and, on the other, the in-migration of
foreign brides from South-East Asia; in particular it discusses how
language policy is reacting to the in-migration of foreign brides,
while, paradoxically, the arrival of English teachers is a case of a
migration reacting to language policy.

Chapter 8 concludes the thesis, and suggests questions for further research.

Dr Gareth Price
Visiting Assistant Professor
CSEEES / Linguistics Program
Duke University
Durham, NC

email: gareth.price at duke.edu
t: (+1) 919-641-4639

Dr. Gareth Price
Visiting Assistant Professor
CSEEES/Linguistics Program
Duke University
Durham, NC

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