[lg policy] dissertation: Heritage, History and Identity: Complexity in language maintenance within multigenerational families

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 9 15:02:34 UTC 2011

Heritage, History and Identity: Complexity in language maintenance
within multigenerational families

Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of Anthropology
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: W F Chiang

Dissertation Title: Heritage, History and Identity: Complexity in
language maintenance within multigenerational families

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
                            Chinese, Yue (yue)
                            English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Elizabeth L Keating
Pauline Strong
Joel F Sherzer

Dissertation Abstract:

My dissertation research employs theories that examine the relationship
between language and social meaning to look at semiotic processes through
which ideologies of differentiation are formed. This dissertation considers
language use and heritage language maintenance in four multigenerational
families whose ancestral language was a target of elimination by national
language policies. Utilizing paradigms for examining the semiotic processes
of ideologies of language differentiation, as well as identity formation,
this dissertation attempts to untangle the various language ideologies
surrounding the different language resources within the ethnic Chinese
community in Singapore and examines their effects on identity formation and
intergenerational interactions where different language competencies are
featured. Linguistic resources in Singapore are legitimized with
differentiating attribution of linguistic capital where four official
languages are placed higher than the heritage languages, and within the
official languages, English is legitimized as the language for business and
science, and for use in interethnic communication. Differentiation is
constructed among the languages, which then project indexical values to
their speakers and their respective linguistic behaviors. Taking a
discourse-centered approach and paying attention to historicity, this
dissertation provides an in-depth analysis of language patterns in
multigenerational families. The findings show varying degree of heritage
language maintenance at home and language shift from the heritage language
in the public sphere. The study also identifies a unique
skipped-generational heritage language transmission phenomenon resulting
from changes in woman's roles, as well as from the complexity of identity
configurations featuring ethnic, heritage, linguistic, and national
affiliations. This dissertation also examines processes of
intergenerational language negotiation foregrounding age and religion as
two intersecting factors, discussing their implications on traditional
family values, family structure, as well as heritage language maintenance.
Utilizing multigenerational and multilingual families as a research site
encompasses alternative linguistic markets and temporalities to examine the
creative use of linguistic resources by speakers for identity formation and
language maintenance efforts.


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