Language choice and identity construction in peer interactions: insights from a multilingual university in Hong Kong

Gu, Mingyue
February 2011
Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development;2011, Vol. 32 Issue 1, p17
Academic Journal
Informed by linguistic ecological theory and the notion of identity, this study investigates language uses and identity construction in interactions among students with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds in a multilingual university. Individual and focus-group interviews were conducted with two groups of students: Hong Kong (HK) and mainland Chinese students. The findings indicate that, while different languages position their speakers in different symbolic spaces, language users employ a variety of languages for different identification purposes, and exercise symbolic power in various ways in order to be heard and respected. It is also found that language often plays a substantial role in achieving a sense of intimacy among group members and that the huge inherent differences, despite the umbrella of 'unity' between HK and mainland China, lead to a mutual non-identification between HK and mainland students. The study extends understandings of the interconnected relations of languages and context.


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