A Chinese yuppie in Beijing: Phonological variation and the construction of a new professional identity

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127 Scopus citations


Recent sociolinguistic studies have given increased attention to the situated practice of members of locally based communities. Linguistic variation examined tends to fall on a continuum between a territorially based "standard" variety and a regional or ethnic vernacular. This article emphasizes the need for sociolinguistics, especially variationist sociolinguistics, to look beyond strictly local contexts and to go beyond treating variation as located along a linear dimension of standard and vernacular. Based on quantitative analysis of four phonological variables among Chinese professionals in foreign and state-owned companies in Beijing, this study demonstrates that professionals in foreign businesses employ linguistic resources from both local and global sources to construct a new cosmopolitan variety of Mandarin, whereas their counterparts in state-owned businesses favor the use of local features. The study shows that variation does not just reflect existing social categories and social change, but is a resource for constructing those categories and participates in social change. (Mandarin Chinese, phonological variation, identity, style, linguistic market, China, business professionals, social change.)*

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-466
Number of pages36
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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