Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Fuller, Janet

Abstract

The aim of this study is to investigate the sociolinguistic hierarchy between Mandarin Chinese and Southern Min Chinese in Taiwan, or the linguistic hegemony of Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. Of particular interest is the relationship between the language of the majority and the new Taiwanese identity forged presumably by democratization. Taiwan is an island that has been occupied by a variety of ethnic groups, causing it to be linguistically diverse. Japanese colonization of Taiwan was put to an end in the wake the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Mandarin Chinese became the official language of Taiwan in 1945. Nevertheless, the primary Chinese language spoken by ethnic Chinese was not Mandarin Chinese but Southern Min Chinese, also known as Taiwanese. Consequently, oppression of Southern Min Chinese and its speakers became inevitable. Sociolinguistic norms seemingly began to spawn rapidly, turning Mandarin Chinese into the mainstream language associated with the educated, intellectual, and upper class, while stigmatizing Southern Min as low class, uneducated and vulgar. As with obliteration of the oppressions on the institutional level, the transformation of such norms does not seem to stop in social contexts. It instead carries on in a more subtle way. Moreover, under the rule of Kuomingtang (KMT), democratization came unprecedentedly into the history of Taiwan. A new Taiwanese identity thus is assumed to be associated with democratization and is fundamentally different from Taiwanese identities constructed in the past. However, such a superordinate identity is deeply problematic due to its Chinese centric nature that is likely to impose ideologies and values onto other ethnic groups in Taiwan causing social inequality. Therefore, identifying ideologies and values imposed onto the Taiwanese identity by the majority, Benshengren (本省人), is crucial in addressing social issues. Accordingly this research also goes on investigating what it means to be Taiwanese to the Taiwanese majority, Benshengren (本省人).

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