Qing Zhang photo
Zhang, Qing
Associate Professor

My research concerns the constitutive role of language in contexts of social change and globalization. Specifically, my work has dealt with the entanglements of linguistic practice and rapid socioeconomic transformations in the People’s Republic of China. As a country changing from a formerly “destratified” and “decommodified” society to one with the emergence of many social strata and a sweeping consumerism, contemporary China presents an unprecedented testing ground for examining the role of linguistic practice in social-economic-political transformations. Situated within such a context, my work treats language not merely as reflecting or responding to societal changes but as being among the very forces and resources that reconfigure the contemporary social-political landscape of China. I have investigated how linguistic resources are taken up by social agents to effect new social distinctions, to attain access to newly available socioeconomic opportunities, and to contest what is considered the “conventional” and the “legitimate.” Much of my research examines local social actors drawing on not only local resources to engage in stylistic and identity work but also supra-local resources made available through transnational flows of capital, people, ideas and commodities. The approach that I take to investigate the use and meaning of linguistic resources combines ethnographic methods of data collection and interpretation with quantitative methods of locating patterns of linguistic practice. I consider linguistic forms in light of their semiotic context, as part of the material and cultural resources that local social actors employ to forge new styles and identities. I explore the social meanings of linguistic resources as they emerge in the process of their use and bundling with other semiotic resources. I am also interested in studying the social history of cultural forms, including culturally salient linguistic forms.