Language Diversity in the Sinophone World

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That's the title of a new book (Oct. 7, 2020) from Routledge edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela, with the following subtitle:  Historical Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices.   I was present at the conference in Göttingen where the papers in the volume were first delivered and can attest to the high level of presentations and discussions.

This is the publisher's book description:

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World offers interdisciplinary insights into social, cultural, and linguistic aspects of multilingualism in the Sinophone world, highlighting language diversity and opening up the burgeoning field of Sinophone studies to new perspectives from sociolinguistics.

The book begins by charting historical trajectories in Sinophone multilingualism, beginning with late imperial China through to the emergence of English in the mid-19th century. The volume uses this foundation as a jumping off point from which to provide an in-depth comparison of modern language planning and policies throughout the Sinophone world, with the final section examining multilingual practices not readily captured by planning frameworks and the ideologies, identities, repertoires, and competences intertwined within these different multilingual configurations.

Taken together, the collection makes a unique sociolinguistic-focused intervention into emerging research in Sinophone studies and will be of interest to students and scholars within the discipline.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction: Language diversity in the sinophone world

Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela


Historical trajectories

1 What was standard Chinese in the nineteenth Century?

Divergent views in the times of transition

Richard VanNess Simmons

2 Manchu, Mandarin, and the politicization of spoken language in Qing China

Mårten Söderblom Saarela

3 Romanizing Southern Mǐn:

Missionaries and the promotion of written Chinese vernaculars

Don Snow

4 Interactions across Englishes in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore

Christiane Meierkord


Part II

Language planning

5 One legacy, two legislations:

Language policies on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait

Henning Klöter

6 Language policy and practice in Taiwan in the early twenty-first century

Su-Chiao Chen

7 A tale of two Special Administrative Regions:

The state of multilingualism in Hong Kong and Macao

David C.S. Li and Choi-Lan Tong

8 One People, One Nation, One Singapore:

Language policy and shifting identities among Chinese Singaporeans

Yeng Seng Goh and Yeow Wah Fong


Part III

Multilingual practices

9 Speakers of "mother tongues" in multilingual China:

Complex linguistic repertoires and identity construction

Sihua Liang

10 Multilingualism and language policy in Singapore

Peter Siemund and Lijun Li

11 The discourses of lào yīngwén:

Resistance to and subversion of the normative status of English in Taiwan

Hsi-Yao Su

12 Conventionalized code-switching in Taiwan:

English insertions in Taiwan Mandarin

Julia Wasserfall

13 Ubiquitous but unplanned:

The utterance-final particle ê in Taiwan Mandarin

Chin-hui Lin

14 Diverse language, diverse grammars:

On quirky phenomena in Mandarin

Jeroen Wiedenhof

The linguistic landscape of China is far from monolithic, even within the sprawling Sinitic language family.


Selected readings

"The Sinophone" (2/28/19)

"Sinophone and Sinosphere" (11/8/12)


  1. David Moser said,

    October 26, 2020 @ 9:52 am

    Wow, this looks GREAT! Can't wait to get a copy, thanks for introducing this book to us, Victor. I just gave a talk (via Zoom) to the Schwarzman scholars, and tried convey the the state of linguistic diversity in the late Qing, framing it with the question "What sorts of language would the Empress Dowager Cixi have been exposed to in daily life?" (We know from Katharine Carl's book that Cixi was annoyed by all the regional accents and topolects she encountered when dealing with Qing officials.) This book will be a great resource.

  2. Bathrobe said,

    October 26, 2020 @ 6:50 pm

    This will be a great historical source. In about two decades' time this mostly be history. The Chinese government, still led by Xi Jinping, will have dealt a death blow to its linguistic diversity; those who are still alive can sit and watch the dying out of languages and topolects that the government has cut at the root.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    October 27, 2020 @ 7:16 am

    From Ross King:

    Many thanks–the book looks very interesting.

    I was also intrigued to see the link at the end to the blog post on "Sinophone and Sinosphere."

    In our forthcoming _Cosmopolitan and Vernacular in the World of Wen: Engaging with Sheldon Pollock from the Sinographic Cosmopolis_, I argue strongly in my editor's introduction against the useless term "sinosphere" and in favor of (better) sinographic sphere and (best) Sinographic Cosmopolis. 'Useless', that is, in terms of any discussion about pre-20th century 'East Asia'–if policy wonks working on modern/contemporary issues want to use 'sinosphere', they're welcome to it.

  4. Alan Shaw said,

    October 27, 2020 @ 8:27 am

    One hundred and twenty-eight dollars, and that's after a 20% "discount."

  5. M. Paul Shore said,

    October 28, 2020 @ 3:22 am

    Alan Shaw: Keep in mind that $128 for a book in 2020 is the equivalent of about $64 in 1990, or $41 in 1980, or $19 in 1970. Sometimes our psychological inflation adjustments are slower than the real ones!

    Note also that this is a hardcover edition priced, I assume, primarily for library possession and the potential use by multiple readers that that entails. A softcover edition may come out later. A Kindle edition is already available for $49.

  6. M. Paul Shore said,

    October 28, 2020 @ 3:25 am

    Apparently the dollar signs triggered some typographical mayhem in my comment above.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    October 28, 2020 @ 10:04 am

    MPS, the dollar sign will trigger the site infrastructure into interpreting whatever follows (until the next dollar sign), as maths, marked up using [La]TeX conventions. And as TeX italicises maths, anything following the first dollar sign will be italicised unless/until a closing dollar sign is encountered. The interpreter is probably MathJax.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    October 28, 2020 @ 10:07 am

    Incidentally, I found it interesting that you (MPS) wrote "priced, I assume, primarily for library possession". Did you make that assumption based primarily on the binding, the price or the subject matter. I ask simply because I buy a large number of books for myself (not for a library) and I will always buy hardback in preference to softback.

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