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Language Choice and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: The Case of Kazak Community

Talant Mawkanuli

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 3:30pm
Thomson 317
Urumchi, the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China is a multilingual, multiethnic, and multicultural city. Intercultural communication is a daily phenomenon. Kazak is one of the major ethnic groups in this multiethnic and multicultural society. Among themselves, Kazaks speak in their mother tongue. Yet language choice for the Kazaks is relevant not only in interethnic, but also in intra-ethnic interaction. A Kazak may well use three different languages during the course of a single day in order to get along. Their usage probably will correlate closely with the status of those they communicate with. Chinese, or sometimes Uygur, functions as the language of power in public formal situations and with strangers in intra-ethnic communication; in contrast, Kazak regularly is used in certain interethnic encounters. In other situations, language choice becomes more complicated. This talk discusses patterns of language use in this speech community with reference to ethnolinguistic vitality by analyzing data collected from a Kazak community at Xinjiang University in Urumchi. In addition, language choice on both the macro-societal level and the micro-societal level, paying special attention to the Chinese government’s language policy on language use, will be examined.
Dr. Talant Mawkanuli is a faculty member in the Turkic and Central Eurasian Studies Program in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington, where he teaches courses on Turkic languages and cultures in Central Eurasia. Prior to joining the University of Washington, he has also taught at Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin. He received his Ph.D. in Turkic Sociolinguistics and Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University. His research and teaching activities have focused on issues of Turkic languages and Sociolinguistics. He has done linguistic fieldwork and conducted research on language endangerment and revitalization as well as on the history of Turkic peoples in China and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). He has authored/co-authored several books on Turkic languages and has published articles on sociolinguistic aspects of the Turkic languages and language policy.

China Studies Program

East Asia Center