A tear in my eye but I cannot cry : an ethnographic multiple case study on the language ecology of Urumchi, Xinjiang and the language practices of Uyghur young adults
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This ethnographic study investigates the language ecology of Urumchi, Xinjiang with a focus on contextual factors as related to the language practices of Uyghur young adults. The thesis explores how the migration and settlement of Han Chinese, coupled with the expansion of Mandarin (and corresponding marginalization of Uyghur and other ethnic minority languages) in the Xinjiang education system has resulted in a punctuation of the linguistic equilibrium of the province. This study demonstrates how socio-political forces contribute to the devaluation of minority linguistic capital in a linguistic market, and how a language policy in the domestic field, as the primary structuring structure, may be utilized to stabilize diglossia and maintain the intergenerational transmission of a minority language. Participant observation, interview and documentary data were collected over an 18-month period of fieldwork in Urumchi. The analysis of interview data from 26 Uyghur adults, defined as early to mid-twenty years of age, who had been educated in Mandarin classes (mínkăohàn), Uyghur classes (mínkăomín), and bilingual Mandarin-Uyghur classes (shuāngyǔ) or a combination of these programs yielded four themes: context and language investments; expected returns; language choice; and linguistic anxiety. The data suggests a high degree of ambivalence among Uyghur young adults toward Mandarin; this form of cultural capital is conceived of as requisite for participation in the Han Chinese dominated economy, yet of a colonial nature and damaging to the demarcation of Uyghur social identity. Case study narratives are presented on four Uyghur young adults: one female educated in Mandarin classes (mínkăohàn); one male educated in Mandarin classes (mínkăohàn); one female educated in Uyghur primary and Mandarin-Uyghur secondary classes (mínkăomín/shuāngyǔ); and one male educated in Uyghur primary and Mandarin-Uyghur secondary classes (mínkăomín/shuāngyǔ). Each case study consultant completed a 94-item expressive vocabulary assessment. The data suggests that the expansion of Mandarin as the language of instruction in the Xinjiang education system has resulted in unstable diglossia among Uyghur communities, evidenced by Uyghur language attrition and Mandarin-Uyghur code-switching. Findings emphasize contextual factors that are contributing to the disruption of the intergenerational transmission of Uyghur and actions to support the vitality of this cultural heritage.
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