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Learning Local” Languages: Passive Revolution, Language Markets, and Aborigine Education in Taiwan

This dissertation examines contemporary linguistic markets and language policy in Taiwan in terms of the historical processes of state formation, class alliances, and identity politics, drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of linguistic markets and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony as well as the literature on nationalism and linguistic ideology. Emphasis is placed on the historical processes underlying the construction of Taiwan’s linguistic markets as Taiwan’s linguistic nationalism emerged throughout history, focusing on the continuities and changes across Qing, Japanese, KMT and DPP rule.

Accordingly, with language policy always in the background, the dissertation touches on several interrelated issues, including (a) the impact of each ruling historical bloc on Taiwan’s linguistic nationalism, focusing on continuities and discontinuities in language and education policies; (b) the formation of Taiwanese identity as a series of nested concentric circles radiating out from local communities to encompass the nation, the larger Chinese community, and eventually the world; (c) the differential processes of incorporating mountains and plains Aborigines into the state and the resultant differences in their implementation of state policies; (d) the alternative paths taken by local intellectuals in implementing state policies; and (e) the contradictions between ideology and practice that often besets nationalist projects and the role of cultural corruption” in bridging the gap.

The findings reveal, among others, that, while Bourdieu’s theory of linguistic markets is useful in understanding the language hierarchy in Taiwan, the historiography of the linguistic markets is critical to an understanding of the political processes underlying their construction. It is here that Gramsci’s theory of hegemony enters the picture. Gramsci’s emphasis on the political process of alliance formation between elite and subaltern groups and the cross-class alliance involved in a passive revolution” implies that the dominant ideology cannot easily be equated with the class interests of the ruling elite. This questions Bourdieu’s theory that assumes a direct correlation between the linguistic capital possessed by the ruling elite and that valued by the linguistic marketplace. In Taiwan’s case, the value accorded to languages in the marketplace has been a product of political negotiation and competition over control of the Taiwanese nation-state.

As with all work published on my web site, the dissertation is covered by a creative commons license.

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