Deviant Writing and Youth Identity: Representation of Dialects with Chinese Characters on the Internet

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Public Lecture Series: Transformations and Innovations of Chinese Cultural Tradition in the Era of New Media

Partially supported by the Education Section of the Chinese Consulate-General in Los Angeles.

This study examines the dialect writing in Chinese characters on the Internet in contemporary China. Deviating from the standard writing of Chinese, the Internet-¬savvy youth transcribe their native dialects on an ad hoc basis, which celebrates multiplicity, creativity, individuality and resists uniformity, standardization, and institutionalization. In particular, the study investigates how written dialectal words are explored to mark a distinct visual style and to articulate a distinct local youth identity. Furthermore, this study examines the dominant strategy of phonetic borrowing in dialect transcription. It is argued that diachronically, the youth's phonocentric obsession tapped into the May Fourth tradition of the baihua movement; and synchronically, the celebration of dialect sound on the Internet echoes the contemporary soundscape of local dialects formed in the mass media in recent years.

Jin Liu is Associate Professor of Chinese at Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian Literature and Culture from Cornell University, and her M.A. and B.A. in Chinese Linguistics from Beijing University. Her interdisciplinary research studies contemporary Chinese popular culture and media culture from the perspective of (local) language. She is the author of the book, Signifying the Local: Media Productions Rendered in Local Languages in Mainland China in the New Millennium (2013) and co-editor of Chinese Under Globalization: Emerging Trends in Language Use in China (2012). She has published articles in journals including positions: Asia Critique, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese, Chinese Language and Discourse, and Harvard Asia Pacific Review.

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Published: Friday, October 23, 2015