Gender and Language, Vol 12, No 1 (2018)

Contested words, gender norms and language ideologies: the gendered meaning of tai

Hsi-Yao Su
Issued Date: 11 May 2018


This study investigates the slang term tai in Taiwan Mandarin and its interactions with gender norms and local language ideologies. Initially a derogatory term denoting an undesirable type of localness, tai has been appropriated to emphasize non-conformity and local identity and has become a discursive site where ideologies concerning gender, language, localness, and cosmopolitanism interact with and shape each other. Using both questionnaire and news corpus data, the study reveals that female subjects evaluate tai more negatively and display a higher level of sensitivity to the role of linguistic practices in the discourse of tai than male subjects. Analysis of related news indicates that tai is strongly associated with non-standard language and non-conformity and is less compatible with the mainstream ideal of femininity. The study reveals how word meaning is embedded in an ideological matrix in which representations of language and gender constantly interact with various intersecting strands of ideologies.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.28954


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