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Linguistic Nationalism and its Discontents:
Chinese Latinization and its Communization of Writing

Dr. Lorraine Wong, University of Otago, New Zealand

Abstract:The perceived inherent tie between an individual, a nation and a language is central to linguistic nationalism, which began to appear in Europe during the 19th century and came to define the norm of political life in the 20th century and beyond. Critics of linguistic nationalism (Hugh Seton-Watson, Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson) examine the emergence of “national language” as a top-down diffusion of elite cultural influence, or as an imagination of a unitary community. This talk picks up where these critiques leave off by exploring the simultaneous rise of linguistic nationalism and communism in modern China. During the interwar years, Chinese Communists brought in the Soviet Union’s campaign of anti-illiteracy and sought to replace Chinese characters with the Latin alphabet. This Latinizing campaign quickly won the support of left-wing intellectuals, within and outside the Chinese Communist Party, who agitated for the right to literacy of the uneducated commoners, as well as for their right to access the national language and literature. This talk discusses the political agenda and linguistic features of Latinized Chinese, examining how the Latinizing campaign questions linguistic nationalism by negotiating “national language” in the contested ground of history.

Dr. Lorraine Wong is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese literature in the global context as well as literatures written in non-Mandarin Chinese. Currently she is working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Script and Revolution in China’s Long Twentieth Century.

Time 12:00 – 13:30, Thursday, 27 September 2018

Fee Free Admission, HK$40.00 for Lunch

Venue USC, 8/F, Tin Ka Ping Building, CUHK

Language English