Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World


Language diversity is a ubiquitous feature in the sinophone world. In the past and present, language planning agencies in the area commonly – if not uncontroversially – referred to as “Greater China” have responded differently to the challenges of multilingualism. After several decades of national language policy, Mandarin is now widely used and broadly accepted in Mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan. It is used to a much lesser degree in Hong Kong and Macao, where Cantonese, the major regional language, arguably enjoys a higher prestige than other so‐called “dialects” elsewhere. At the same time, there are notable differences with regard to international language planning – most importantly, the incorporation of English into school curricula and/or the acceptance of English as an official language.

One purpose of the project is to compare the aims and effects of language planning and the manifestations of language diversity in the daily lives of the speakers. In addition, we aim at situating language diversity in historical contexts. The reason behind this historical contextualization is to find out to what extent language-related phenomena are imbedded in Chinese traditions, and to what extent they can be accounted for by analytical approaches that are not bound to Chinese culture and/or history. Topics include language contact phenomena (e.g., code mixing), multilingualism in classrooms, language variation and language use in the media, and nonofficial language ideologies and activities of language revivalist groups.


An international symposium has been held at Göttingen University in June 2015. Papers presented at the symposium are currently under revision and will be published in an edited volume (publication scheduled for 2018).