Language Planning and Varieties of (Modern Standard) Chinese
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
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China’s participation in the global economy has brought about a new professional group — Chinese professionals working for foreign businesses (waiqi). Focusing on the linguistic practice of a group of waiqi professionals in Beijing, this study compares their speech with that of professionals working for state-owned enterprises. Both groups are natives of Beijing. Based on quantitative analysis of three Beijing Mandarin features and a tone feature revealing an influence from non-Mainland Mandarin varieties, the study shows that the waiqi group overwhelmingly used the non-local features much more frequently than the state professionals. It is argued that the waiqi professionals’ speech cannot be described simply as speaking a more standard variety of Putonghua. They are constructing a cosmopolitan Mandarin style through selectively combining features from both regional and global sources. This non-local style of Mandarin does not strictly conform to the standard of Putonghua. Explanations for the differential practice of the two groups are sought through differences in the linguistic markets in which they participate. This study demonstrates that the traditional territorially-based approach to sociolinguistic variation on a local–standard dimension is inadequate in examining practices that employ linguistic resources from both local and supra-local sources.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): cosmopolitan Mandarin; linguistic capital; Putonghua; sociolinguistic variation
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