PERSPECTIVES ON MARKED LANGUAGE CHOICES AND USES IN TAIWAN
Jennifer M. Wei
This paper explores types of marked language choices and their uses in Taiwan, using examples from both everyday and e-generation online communication where language mixing, crossing, and stylizing are rampant despite the fact that most of the same individuals consider conventionally codified Mandarin, English, and Japanese more prestigious. The paper argues that this kind of hybrid language practice owes much to Taiwan’s twice-reformatted national language policies in the 20th century, and to a rapid regime transition from one party dominance to a multi-party society. That is, the historical enforcement of both Japanese and Mandarin helped nation-state development but didn’t leave other linguistic varieties with an equal chance for social advancement, modernization, and codification. Indigenous and ingenious, the language choices and uses in question tap into the lack of codification and standardization of non-Mandarin varieties, into the stereotypical features of Taiwanese-accented Mandarin, and into the incongruities of so many phonetic schemes and use of Chinese characters as phonetic symbols to sound out English, Mandarin, and Japanese. The pragmatics goes beyond immediate functional purposes and are used metaphorically to tap into taboos, for example, or to create humor by adopting a marked choice, in real and virtual discourse. By connecting these emerging language features to broader socio-historical changes in Taiwan, we are able to see the coming of age of a new pattern of reappropriating Chinese characters and therefore Chineseness in online communication. It is a development that may help us reflect on the meanings of speaking/writing Chinese in the 21st century.
Key words: codeswitching, language choice, language use, markedness, national language policy