Michael Xu

Date of Award


First Advisor

John Weinstein

Second Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain

Third Advisor

Chris Coggins


The Chinese have long been proud of their unity as a people. However, this pride can overshadow and eventually eliminate a more individualistic cultural, ethnic, or even linguistic identity. Between the instatement of Mandarin as the official standard dialect of Chinese as a means of further unifying the country and the rapid acceleration of modernization in a country that is quickly rising to be a superpower in the world, speakers of less common Chinese dialects have taken a passive stance in preserving their linguistic identity. Many of the younger generations see no practical utility in learning or preserving their dialect and thus solely learn Mandarin which eventually leads to a potential disappearance of the dialect. This thesis will focus on Cantonese, a dialect that has the ability to threaten the unification that Mandarin strives for because of successful economic areas such as Hong Kong that have sustained Cantonese as its official dialect. The thesis will examine 1) what it means to be a dialect and the implications the term holds, 2) China's history, how Mandarin came to be the official dialect, and how the concept of unity became ingrained into the Chinese culture, 3) the origins and rise of the Cantonese identity, and 4) the Chinese diaspora communities as they are manifested in the form of the various Chinatowns and how the linguistic fields there are changing as a result of the modernization of China.

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