Language and Social Change in China: Undoing Commonness through Cosmopolitan Mandarin, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Language and Social Change in China

Undoing Commonness through Cosmopolitan Mandarin, 1st Edition

By Qing Zhang


198 pages

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Paperback: 9780415708081
pub: 2017-09-18
Hardback: 9780415708074
pub: 2017-09-21
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pub: 2017-09-11
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Language and Social Change in China: Undoing Commonness through Cosmopolitan Mandarin offers an innovative and authoritative account of the crucial role of language in shaping the sociocultural landscape of contemporary China. Based on a wide range of data collected since the 1990s and grounded in quantitative and discourse analyses of sociolinguistic variation, Qing Zhang tracks the emergence of what she terms “Cosmopolitan Mandarin” as a new stylistic resource for a rising urban elite and a new middle-class consumption-based lifestyle. The book powerfully illuminates that Cosmopolitan Mandarin participates in dismantling the pre-reform, socialist, conformist society by bringing about new social distinctions. Rich in cultural and linguistic details, the book is the first of its kind to highlight the implications of language change on the social order and cultural life of contemporary China. Language and Social Change in China is ideal for students and scholars interested in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, and Chinese language and society.


“Qing Zhang’s study of the emergence of Cosmopolitan Mandarin is a major contribution both to sociolinguistics and our understanding of the social changes taking place in contemporary China. She shows how speakers use innovative linguistic forms that not only reflect the transformation from an egalitarian society to a society with greater social differentiation, but also make a major contribution to emerging social distinctions. The book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to fully understand the changes occurring in the world’s most populous country.”

Robert Bayley, University of California, Davis, USA

“This volume is a brilliant account of the central role of stylistic practice in social and economic change. Blending traditions from Variationist Sociolinguistics and Linguistic Anthropology, Zhang produces a rich analysis of the relation between ideology and stylistic regimes in China’s emerging engagement with the global consumer society. A wonderful book.”

Penelope Eckert, Stanford University, USA

In summary, this pioneering work has convincingly and sucessfully achieved its goal, as Qing Zhang argues- "The central theme of this book is about the mutually constitutive relation between language and social change" (p.1).

Ke Zhang (Beijing Language and Culture University) Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 2018

Table of Contents

Introduction: Emerging Social Distinctions and the Semiotic Inadequacy of the "Common Speech"

Chapter 1. Sociolinguistic Change, Style, and Ideology

Chapter 2. Beijing Yuppies: The New Business Elite

Chapter 3. Cosmopolitan Mandarin in the Making of Beijing Yuppies

Chapter 4. Cosmopolitan Mandarin in the Making of a New Chinese Middle-Class Consumer

Chapter 5. Warring Standards: Contesting the Enregisterment of Cosmopolitan Mandarin

Chapter 6. A Style-Based Approach to Sociolinguistic Change

About the Author

Qing Zhang is Associate Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General