(Standard) language ideology and regional Putonghua in Chinese social media: a view from Weibo

Hui Zhao*, Hong Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Despite having numerous Chinese language varieties and non-Chinese ethnic minority languages, China is often considered a monolingual nation (Liang, Sihua. 2015. Language Attitudes and Identities in Multilingual China: A Linguistic Ethnography. London: Springer, 154). The country’s strong monolingual language policy heavily promotes a single standard language–Putonghua. Recently, scholars have begun to investigate ‘regional Putonghua’ varieties, contact varieties that have emerged from standard language promotion and community second language acquisition (e.g. Xiao, Jinsong. 2007. “Putonghua Zhongjieyu Yanjiu Shuping.” Journal of Yunyang Normal College 27 (2): 119–122). This paper analyses data collected from Weibo, China’s online microblogging site, to investigate the language ideologies surrounding these ‘non-standard’ regional varieties. Two cities (Ningbo and Shanghai) and their local Putonghua varieties are examined: the cities share a similar linguistic background but Shanghai is more economically advanced than its neighbouring city Ningbo, and the language varieties in Shanghai are also believed to have more prestige (Zhou, Minglang. 2001. “The Spread of Putonghua and Language Attitude Changes in Shanghai and Guangzhou, China.” Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 11 (2): 231–253). Discourse analysis on Weibo posts allows us to show how regional Putonghua varieties are portrayed and perceived by laypeople and how they exist as ‘non-standard’ varieties in the shadow of the strong standard language ideology. These ‘non-standard’ varieties are associated with rich language ideologies and social meanings and their links to both negative cultural stereotypes and positive local identities often associated with vernacular varieties are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-896
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Chinese
  • Putonghua
  • Weibo
  • language ideology
  • regional Putonghua

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