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“Our spiritual center”: Language ideology and personhood at a Chinese community heritage language school

Peter C Silver, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is an ethnographic study concerning language maintenance efforts at a Chinese heritage language school in a North American community. This research employs the construct of language ideology—members' common sense notions about language and language learning—to explore important aspects of what it means to speak, act, think, and feel like a member of the community. It is argued that the heritage language school is the center of a moral project helping to mediate cross-cultural experience so that children maintain positive social identities. Methodology involves discourse analysis and ethnographic observation. Interviews and texts are transcribed and analyzed to suggest structure and pattern. The analysis finds evidence to support the conclusion that notions of language and language learning reflect traditional patterns of Chinese thought and culture but that these are reconfigured to suit American circumstances. It is suggested that the subject position of Overseas Chinese helps members maintain stable notions of self as Chinese.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Language arts|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Silver, Peter C, "“Our spiritual center”: Language ideology and personhood at a Chinese community heritage language school" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110554.