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Visualizing language ideologies and verbalizing perceived linguistic boundaries: The case of Mandarin Chinese in contemporary Taiwan


As Mandarin gains prominence in the globalizing world, the use of Mandarin not only blurs geopolitical borders, but also the linguistic boundaries drawn between Taiwan and Mainland China. Employing the theoretical framework of language ideologies and the methodological approach of perceptual dialectology, this article investigates how the Taiwanese perform their identities by hand-drawing their perceived linguistic boundaries of Mandarin varieties. The data came from a multi-sited linguistic fieldwork project in Taiwan that engaged with forty-two Taiwanese (age 19-56) on tasks that include drawing dialectological maps of Mandarin and extended ethnographic interviews. The data show that rhoticity has been selectively rationalized and ideologized as boundary of linguistic differentiation between Mandarin varieties across the Taiwan Strait. This article further examines the ways in which the informants, by surpassing the geospatial indexicality of Taiwan Mandarin as a vernacular, rationalize and project the existing stylistic use of Taiwan Mandarin onto their sociopolitical construals, creating a space where Taiwan Mandarin is equivalent to Putonghua in symbolic power. This study demonstrates the ways in which perceived dialectological maps functions as visualized indexical fields that mirror the multiplicity and volatility of participants’ concurrent language ideologies about the complicated relationship between language and the micro- as well as macro-sociopolitical environments they inhabit.

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