Special Edition, September 2009,
Language, Culture and Identity in Asia.
Francesco Cavallaro, Andrea Milde, & Peter Sercombe
We are very proud to present this first Special Edition of The Linguistics Journal. The purpose of The Linguistics Journal is to provide a means for the dissemination of original and high quality research in theoretical as well as Applied Linguistics. It is gratifying to all of us involved with the journal to see how much we have grown in recent times both in terms of readership and of the quality of publications. The journal is increasingly attracting a bigger readership and is gaining wider recognition as an international scholarly journal of Linguistics. This is due to the high quality of the articles published, and these high standards have been possible due to the many talented authors who submit their research to us and to our capable team of editors and proofreaders who make sure all published articles are of the highest possible standards.
This is the first Special Edition commissioned by the journal. It is the product of a year-long process that has excited and challenged us as editors of this burgeoning linguistics journal. As the first Special Edition we decided to focus on the sociolinguistic exploration of Asian languages, cultures and identities and we are pleased to present eight articles on this theme, which are further confirmation of the great progress our journal has made in the last few years.
Sociolinguistic research by Asians in Asia has received relatively little recognition in other parts of the world, especially work done in India and Japan in the early 20th century (Coulmas 2005). Back in 1992, Kingsley Bolton deliberated on how to ‘marry’ western Linguistics with the burgeoning Asian style of research. Today, Sociolinguistics in Asia has come to be more rightfully recognised, as exemplified by the number of excellent researchers in the field now. Asia offers a varied and challenging environment for research, and Asian linguists, and linguists from elsewhere, carrying out research in Asia, are now exploring the continent’s rich linguistic diversity and we can look ahead to more exciting and high quality research. The growth of Linguistics, and Sociolinguistics in particular, in Asia has also been helped by the increase in Asian tertiary institutions teaching Linguistics. In turn, these institutions graduate a significant number of Asian researchers every year. This influx of researchers has led to Sociolinguistic research in Asia today becoming incredibly diverse, in topic and approach, and with a focus on a multitude of languages that is hard to match by the Linguistics scenes in Europe and the Americas.
This Special Edition of The Linguistics Journal is an example of this, with the articles presented here dealing with languages as diverse as Cantonese, Santal, Turkish, Persian, French, and English in different Asian contexts and by a variety of Asian scholars; and geographically encompassing countries from the west of Asia, such has Lebanon, Iran and Turkey, to Bangladesh in South Asia, to Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in South East Asia, and Japan in East Asia. Approaches also vary from discourse and genre analysis to language policy and intercultural communication, while the topics are as varied as the geographical areas investigated.
The majority of the articles fit into the theme of this issue and that is issues of language and identity. Baker discusses what the concepts of language, culture and identity mean in relation to English used as a lingua franca (ELF) in Asia. He posits that English functions as a language of communication in Asia that should be viewed as separate from ‘native speaker’ norms of English use in nations seen as predominantly English-speaking. His discussion is based on an ethnographic study of users of English in Thailand. Wong presents a discussion on the identity of ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong who have had a substantial stay overseas and how students from HK perceive: their own national identity before they left for an English-speaking country to further their studies; whether these HK Chinese had changed their perceptions towards their own national identity when they were abroad; and their perceptions of their national identity on returning to Hong Kong. Winchester’s is an examination of what verbal expressions of the self concept, assessed through analysis of self descriptions, reveal about an individual’s identity claims in a given interaction. This study is an interesting exploration of Japanese Diaspora in Britain and, specifically, looks at the communication behaviour of a number of Japanese women conversing in English with a British interlocutor in England. The issue of cultural identity turns out to play an extremely salient role in these women’s self concept in intercultural communication.
Identity is also the topic of discussion of the next two papers, one from Iran, a country that is becoming increasingly more active in Linguistics research, and the other Lebanon. Mahdavy’s paper is an empirical study into the reflection of Iranian identities in the headlines of national daily newspapers. The study suggests that identities are reflected differently in each newspaper investigated, for example, with some being relatively negative towards a more western identity while others see it more conservatively. Diab investigates Lebanese university students’ perceptions of their ethnic, national, and linguistic identity and their preferences for choice of first foreign language (FL) and medium of instruction in pre-university schools in Lebanon. Findings revealed: the first FL learned was an important factor influencing these students’ preferences for medium of instruction; the importance of English as an essential international language for Lebanese university students in this study; and that some students whose first FL is French expressed a strong affiliation with French language and culture.
The next three papers deal with minority groups in a number of countries. Over the years, voices have been raised for legal rights for the indigenous minorities of the world and for the preservation of indigenous languages. Baykal studied the discursive strategies employed for the revival of the ethnic identities of Romani people living in the Sulukule region in İstanbul, Turkey. While the group is linguistically Turkish, the ‘gentrification’ process in the region has threatened their human, social, cultural, and historical rights. David, Cavallaro and Coluzzi describe the language policies, planning and implementation in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines and discuss the impact of such policies on the maintenance of a number of minority languages. The findings indicate that some countries have language policies that benefit some of the minority languages; while others do not seem to be doing enough to prevent the shift to majority languages. Finally, Cavallaro and Rahman present the plight of the Santals, a significant speech community among forty-five other distinctive minority groups in Bangladesh. With its rich cultural heritage and history, the Santali language has a unique value for the Santal and deserves special attention for conservation. This paper first gives a detailed description of the Santals and their language. Issues of linguistic rights are discussed in the context of indigenous people in Bangladesh, and suggestions are made for the process of integrated public involvement in the multilingual education process for the Santals as an effective way to enable indigenous people in Bangladesh to learn their traditional language, the national language, Bangla, along with English.
Finally I would like to thank the authors, the editors and the proofreaders for their efforts in putting this Special Edition of The Linguistics Journal together. I hope you enjoy reading these articles and I look forward to your continued support.
Bolton, Kingsley 1992. Sociolinguistics today: Asia and the west. In Bolton, Kingsley and Helen Kwok (Eds.) Sociolinguistics today: international perspectives, (pp. 5-66). London: Routledge.
Coulmas, Florian. 2005. Sociolinguistics: the study of speakers’ choices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Volume 4. Issue 2. September 2009
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Francesco Cavallaro, Andrea Milde & Peter Sercombe
2. Ruth M.H, Wong. Identity Change. Overseas Students Returning to Hong Kong
4. Reza Ghafar Samar & Babak Mahdavy. Identities in the Headlines of Iranian National Newspapers.
7. Maya Khemlani David, Francesco Cavallaro & Paolo Coluzzi. Language Policies- Impact on Language Maintenance and Teaching : Focus on Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines.
8. Francesco Cavallaro & Tania Rahman. The Santals of Bangladesh