Language Socialization in Chinese Diasporas : Indexicality of Confucian Ideologies in Family Talk book cover
1st Edition

Language Socialization in Chinese Diasporas
Indexicality of Confucian Ideologies in Family Talk

ISBN 9781032028668
Published September 17, 2021 by Routledge
210 Pages 90 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The monograph provides ethnographically informed analyses of indigenous kin interactions in three Chinese diasporic households in the county of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. Drawing upon the approach that regards talk as a form of social practice, the book demonstrates different ways in which kin relationships are indigenously orchestrated by foreign Chinese parents and their American-born children.

Micro-analytically, social actions of membership categorization, attribution, deference, compliance, commands, and story-telling that unfold in kin interactions are foregrounded as key language devices to discuss ways in which epistemic asymmetry, power hierarchy, and harmony in kin relations are constructed or deconstructed in Chinese diasporic social lives. By way of illustration, the monograph, macro-analytically, speaks to the cultural stereotype of Chinese immigrant/foreign parents’ style of parenting when they pass on the traditional Confucian ideologies in kin interaction.

This book can be a useful reference textbook for graduate courses that address the dynamic intricacy among language, culture, and society.

Table of Contents








I. Theoretical Standpoint, Methodology, and Ethnography of Data Corpus

1. Theoretical standpoints

1.1 Overview of the book

1.2 Bourdieusian approach second language acquisition in the transnational context

1.3 Language socialization as a conceptual paradigm

1.4 Participation framework

1.5 Conversation analysis as an analytic apparatus

1.6 Outline of the book

2. Ethnography of participating families

2.1 Collection of digital data

2.2 Ethnography of participating families

2.2.1 The Culver City Family (A)

2.2.2 The Pasadena Family (B)

2.2.3 The Diamond Bar Family (C)

2.3 Transcription of digital data

2.4 Points of departure for analyses

II. Becoming a Member of Chinese Diasporas in the U.S.

3. Power Asymmetry as Process of Socialization to Filial Piety and Obedience

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Interdisciplinary approach to power in interaction

3.3 Co-construction of authoritarian practices

3.3.1 Actions of deference by Children

3.3.2 Mitigated moves of resistance against privilege denials

3.3.3 Compliance adjacent to effective power

3.3.4 Conditional threats as aggravated words of control

3.4 Co-construction of authoritative practices

3.4.1 Actions that threaten parental esteem

3.4.2 Recycles of commands

3.4.3 Shepherding as aggravated embodied control

3.5 Concluding remarks

4. Epistemic Asymmetry as Process of Socialization to Humbleness and Shame

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Membership categorization, positioning, and socialization to identity

4.2.1 From negativity to interdependent self

4.3.1 Positive assessable values downplayed

4.3.2 Negative assessable as a joint focus of attention

4.3.3 Epistemic asymmetry underscored over actions of contrast

4.4 Socialization techniques in the shame-socialized culture

4.5 Socialization to individualistic self-esteem

4.6 Concluding remarks

III. Indexical Ideologies of Confucian Thoughts

5. Interpersonal Selflessness as the Basis for Harmonious Kin Relations 

5.1 An issue with competing opinions

5.2 Socialization to the interpersonal self

5.3 Co-constriction of harmonious kin relations

5.3.1 Embodied displays of adoration in parent-child relations

5.3.2 Embodied displays of cohesion among siblings

5.4 Harmony kin relations in disguise

5.5 Concluding remarks

6. Conclusion and Discussion

6.1 A recap of the major findings

6.2 Indexical orders of Confucian ideologies

6.3 Implications for heritage-language socialization and instruction



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Hsin-fu Chiu is Associate Professor of Chinese at the California State University, Los Angeles. Trained at the University of California, Los Angeles, Dr. Chiu is a conversation/discourse analyst, interactional sociolinguist, and linguistic anthropologist. For him, human sociality and cognitive processes do not exist within the individual, but rather across symbolically mediated interactions among members of a social group. To document trajectories of human development, Dr. Chiu employs a range of qualitative methods (including participation observation, sociolinguistic interviews, video-recording, and analysis of textual documents) and conducts his research on language socialization in Chinese diasporas and second/foreign language acquisition of Chinese in the classroom and beyond.


Firmly grounded in the methodologies of language socialization, conversation analysis, and Goffman’s approach to human interaction, Language Socialization in Chinese Diasporas masterfully analyzes two parenting logics used to socialize American-born children of Chinese immigrants; one is based on "authoritarian" Confucian ideology, and another is rooted in "authoritative" ideology, promoting individualistic family dynamics. In families where Confucian ideals of filial piety, obedience, and shame-oriented humility prevail, children are socialized to high interpersonal accountability to parents, as well as courses of affectionate action in the family. Care and compassion are closely integrated with structures of control. Examining classical interactional topics, such as directives in social interactions, Chiu shows how the lived and embodied practices through which families negotiate intimate social relationships are built on distinctive ethical orders. The book’s findings about the affordances of an authoritarian Confucian parental logic counters ideas about parenting ideologies prevalent in the US. With acute attention to multimodality, facing formations, and trajectories of action, Language Socialization in Chinese Diasporas provides an exemplary model for how to conduct ethnographic research closely integrating linguistic anthropology and conversation analysis. 

Marjorie Harness Goodwin

Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology, UCLA



Hsin-fu Chiu offers a rare piece of work that grounds language socialization and acculturation in ethnographically informed, multimodality-based microanalyses of everyday life activities of heritage adolescent Mandarin Chinese speakers in Southern California. This ambitious yet thoroughly empirical monograph covers a wide range of topics: how parenting styles reflect power and epistemic asymmetries and how cultural notions such as filial piety, obedience, humbleness, shame, self-esteem, harmony, kin relations, etc. manifest and are reinforced in and through the mundane activities that take place in three ethnic Chinese immigrant households and in various public spheres.

Trained in conversation analysis and anthropological linguistics, Hsin-fu Chiu displays an array of skills in his painstaking analysis of the moment-by-moment unfolding of social interaction comprising multiple semiotic dimensions: lexico-grammar, prosody, visual and bodily behaviors, as well as materials in the interactional environment.

This innovative book should be of great value to anyone who is interested in Chinese discourse analysis, anthropological linguistics, comparative education, heritage language development, and ethnic studies of Asian/Chinse immigrants in the US.

Hongyin Tao

Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles