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The Future ConditionalBuilding an English-Speaking Society in Northeast China$
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Eric S. Henry

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501754906

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501754906.001.0001

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On “Chinglish”

On “Chinglish”

Stigmatization, Laughter, and Nostalgia

(p.119) 5 On “Chinglish”
The Future Conditional

Eric S. Henry

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies the category of language popularly known as “Chinglish” and what this stigmatizing label means for the speakers to whom it is attached. For individuals to discover that their speech or writing was in actuality Chinglish was perhaps the most discomfiting news a Chinese English speaker could hear, implying as it did that the language in use was not only semantically or syntactically wrong but, more importantly, that the speaker's status as an authorized user of the English language was illegitimate and false. Chinglish is formed through the process of enregisterment, where discursive practices encode and systematize the evaluative judgments of entire speech communities, and then sediment over time into particular semiotic registers imbued with social value and identified with distinct social types. The metapragmatic statements that shape the perceptions of Chinglish may be explicit but are more generally embedded within other speech genres such as jokes. Ultimately, membership in the stigmatized speech community of Chinglish users is not claimed by intentional use of the variety but instead assigned by others, reflecting and maintaining existing inequalities in linguistic capital.

Keywords:   Chinglish, stigmatization, Chinese English speaker, English language, enregisterment, speech communities, metapragmatic statements, jokes, linguistic inequality, linguistic capital

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