How to define Chinese — as a language, or a group of language varieties? What does it mean to be a speaker of Chinese, whether you are a native speaker or a Chinese learner? Do you present a different persona when you speak standard Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese or other dialects, and English? How are “Chinese” identities linguistically created, re-shaped, and contested at individual and communal levels?

With distance-learning components, this course studies the relations between Chinese language and society. Topics include the evolution of Chinese scripts, dialects, language attitudes and identity, bilingualism, and Internet vocabulary. We will examine the ways that the conceptions of “Chinese” shape the formation of cultural ideologies and practices. By the end of the course, students will develop both a macro understanding and an insider’s view of Chinese language and culture. Course will be taught in English with materials in English and Chinese. No knowledge of Chinese is required.


  1. To provide students with a knowledge of key concepts and facts related to Chinese language and linguistic ideologies.
  2. To introduce students to the basic methodologies employed in linguistic enquiry.
  3. To deepen students’ understanding of Chinese language in relation to social issues in local and global contexts.
  4. To foster critical thinking, collaborative learning, information and multimedia literacy skills, and creative problem-solving in a multimodal learning environment that accommodates different learning styles.

Course Organization: A Digital Classroom

Facilitated by distance-learning technologies this course creates a hybrid learning space that enables students to learn in both digital and physical classrooms. Blackboard Collaborate will be used to deliver the class, while students and the instructors also meet in person for discussions and small-group projects. Orientation will be held at the beginning of the semester to prepare students for the digital sessions on Blackboard Collaborate.