Language attitudes and gender in China: Perceptions and reported use of Putonghua and Cantonese in the Southern Province of Guangdong

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32 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is concerned with young people's perceptions and reported use of the two language varieties that co-exist in the urban centre of Guangzhou in southern China, Putonghua (P) and Cantonese (C). P is a typical H-variety, promoted by the government and used as a lingua franca throughout China; C is the local L-variety but it also has some prestige and is used in all domains. The focus of our questionnaire study was twofold: to analyse possible gender differences in perceptions and reported use, and to compare results from P-speaking newcomers, who have moved to Guangzhou from other parts of China, with responses from local C-speaking adolescents. Our results suggest that Guangzhou is a reasonably stable diglossia where P and C serve different functions, for newcomers as well as locals, and therefore both varieties appear to be indispensable. However, there are also indications that P promotion is beginning to have an effect in Guangzhou; our female participants seem to be leading on in a gradual change towards increased use of P. Thus our results support the trend reported in numerous sociolinguistic studies of a female preference for the prestige standard variety of a language. Wang & H.J. Ladegaard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-77
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage Awareness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Language and gender
  • Language attitudes
  • Perceptions
  • Putonghua and Cantonese
  • Reported language use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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