Seminar: “Saving Shanghai Dialect”: A case of bottom-up language planning in China


This talk examines the dynamic interplay between language policy and local stakeholders in the process of dialect planning in the city of Shanghai, in the context of social tensions surrounding the decline of Shanghai dialect in mainland China. A process-oriented Language Management Theory (LMT) model is adopted as the analytical framework to reveal the interactive facet of micro language planning. Drawing on in-depth interviews and document analysis, the talk analyzes and interprets ten key players’ perceptions and experiences in relation to the ‘saving Shanghai dialect’ movement. Qualitative data analysis demonstrates five stages in the dialect planning process and reveals how individuals’ agency, when struggling and striving for local language rights, exert bottom- up influence upon language policy-making. The findings also unravel the social political duality between macro structure and individual agency. The talk ends with a discussion on the need to negotiate the individual agency in a more interactive and democratic dialog with predefined policy constraints. This study may have implications for multilingual/multidialectal contexts in other geographical locations where linguistic diversity in the local contexts is encountering shifts in language use and language changes. Besides, this study may also enrich applicability of the LMT framework which reveals the interactive and dynamic process by unbundling individual responses and influences on language planning.

Speaker Bio

SHEN Qi, Shanghai Shu Guang Scholar, is Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Institute of Language Studies, Shanghai International Studies University, and also Deputy Director of China Research Centre for Foreign Language Strategies, sponsored by State Language Commission of China. His research focuses on the interrelationship between language policy and language education and on the sociology of multilingualism. He served as a Think Tank consultant and a member of Board of Scientific Committee for Language Policy and Planning Research for State Language Committee of China. Dr Shen has published widely in these areas. Recent Publications include: Foreign Language Education Policies in East Asia: A Comparative Study (Peking University Press, 2012) and Linguistic Security and Strategic Alternatives: Orientations in Foreign Language Education (Fudan University Press, 2016). Professor Shen is Editor in Chief of Language Education Policy book series (Fudan University Press) and Associate Editor of the Journal Language Policy and Language Education (the Commercial Press). Dr Shen joined Shanghai International Studies University in 2011 as a Research Scholar, having previously worked as an Associate Professor in TESOL at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China. He is also a visiting professor in the Faculty of Education, Hong Kong University and in language policy at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.