02.01.2013

April Huang

Language, Power and Communities in a Diasporic Space: London Chinatown

Can we achieve ‘an understanding of society through an understanding of language as sociolinguistics claims’ (Blommaert, 2003: 613)? In my doctoral research, my aim is to provide a clear map for the study of sociolinguistic globalisation and multilingualism with the applicable framework and theories.

Facing the super-diversified era (Vertovec, 2006), I inquire into the effects of transnational changes on diasporic communities in the UK, which I specifically focus on: first, the effects of changes in the general sociolinguistic landscape in China after the incorporation of Hong Kong on the sociolinguistic patterns and relations in London’s Chinatown, and second, the organization of multilingual repertoires in Chinatown by drawing on the recent theoretical works on connections between space and multilingualism (Blommaert, Collins & Slembrouck 2005a, b; Scollon & Scollon 2003), by co-adopting the ethnographic techniques for data collection and several components for the analysis: trans-contextual analysis (discourse) and multimodal analysis (geo-semiotics and ethnography).

In my concern, languages, space and people are not only the horizontal distributions or even not visible as seen from the satellite but the vertical construction of our living society. My research starts from the study of languages, and then looks into the complex and elaborate relationships of their potential indexibilities.

In other words, this is the research of sociolinguistic ethnography and of the reality. Thus languages and the analysis of languages in this research are the whole story about social movements, structures, and the understanding of the situation and backgrounds. Consequently, I am seeing languages more than merely a linguistic form for communication purpose but including the events of language use and etc. (Silverstein 2004).

This study of languages or should I say ‘beyond the languages’, thus, is about real people’s lives (mobile) within one particular neighbourhood in London (immobile); hence, contexts which are involved obligate the ethnographic approach towards the qualitative data collection and analysis.

The main focus of my doctoral research work lies in the effects of changes in the general sociolinguistic landscape in China after the incorporation of Hong Kong on the sociolinguistic patterns and relations in London’s Chinatown, which reveals the social and spatial influences on the validity of multilingual competences.

There are few questions that I am looking forward to providing answers to towards the end of this research:

  • What and how can the immigrant patterns be observed by reading the displayed signs? A new methodological approach.
  • What does the language transforming within the diasporic communities reveal?
  • Can the observed transformation and patterns in Chinatown be seen as a model – mobile migration – of the transformation and patterns in other multilingual communities?

Throughout the research, a new methodological approach will be developing gradually and contributing to the future researches in the new globalised, multilingual and super-diversified social spaces.