Linguistic choices in the Chinese workplace

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This chapter reports on an investigation of the choice of linguistic codesincluding languages and dialects in the professional workplace in contemporaryChina. The study was informed by current research on language ecology,market value, and indexicality and based on a questionnaire survey and semistructuredinterviews with petrochemical professionals in Xi’an and Beijing.Several salient features regarding the use of linguistic codes by the professionalswere identified: (1) putonghua and written Chinese are commonly used in theworkplace; (2) English is not as commonly used as might have been imaginedin the craze for the international language; (3) despite the recognition of thelocal dialects, beijinghua and shaanxihua, as being an important cultural asset,they are not used extensively in the workplace. On the basis of these results, thechapter argues for a linguistic ecological perspective on the choice of linguisticcodes in the Chinese workplace and the need to consider the local and globaldynamics of political, social, and economic forces in accounting for code choicein different settings.


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