Negotiating Stance and Gender: Peer Talk between American and Chinese Youth
Talk by Wenhao Diao
The relationship between China and the U.S. is becoming fraught, and educational exchanges such as study abroad are increasingly seen as grassroots endeavors to promote intercultural understanding. In this presentation, I focus on the phenomenon of American study abroad in China. Using a large spoken corpus that I collected from conversations between American study abroad students and their Chinese roommates, I begin with the wide variety of topics, including ideologically sensitive ones, that emerged in these interactions. My analysis then focuses on how these American and Chinese college students negotiate stance and manage identity in discourse. The Chinese students utilized Mandarin pragmatic markers to subtly negotiate stance and affect in potentially confrontational conversations, such as religious differences and political views. However, the American students rarely used these markers. Data from ethnographic sources further show that they had little awareness of them. Moreover, just like expressions of affect are stereotypically associated with women in English, frequent and exaggerated use of these pragmatic markers in Mandarin can also enact gendered cuteness among young women in China. Yet, although the female Chinese students engaged in the construction of gender, the American women largely failed to recognize such gendered performance in discourse; some women even criticized their Chinese roommates for not understanding their perspectives. At a time when tensions are growing between the two countries, these findings raise questions regarding how to better prepare American youth to negotiate stance and construct identity with their Chinese peers in intercultural discourse.
Dr. Wenhao Diao is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and the doctoral program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona. She is interested in the sociolinguistic and sociocultural aspects of Chinese language learning and teaching, with a particular focus on study abroad. Her research has appeared in journals such as Applied Linguistics, the Modern Language Journal, and System, among others. She co-guest edited a special issue entitled Study Abroad in the 21st Century for the L2 Journal. She has received funding from the U.S. Federal Department of Education, and recently her proposed collaborative teacher-training seminar project in China was awarded a Fulbright-Hays grant.
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Published: Thursday, February 20, 2020