Heritage language for Chinese Australians : negotiating 'Chineseness' and, capitalising on resources in the lived world

Mu, Guanglun (2013) Heritage language for Chinese Australians : negotiating 'Chineseness' and, capitalising on resources in the lived world. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The ethnic identity and commitment of Heritage Language Learners play salient roles in Heritage Language learning process. The mutually constitutive effect amongst Heritage Language Learner's ethnic identity, commitment, and Heritage Language proficiency has been well documented in social psychological and poststructuralist literatures. Both social psychological and poststructural schools offer meaningful insights into particular contexts but receive critiques from other contexts. In addition, the two schools largely oppose each other. This study uses Bourdieu's sociological triad of habitus, capital, and field to reconcile the two schools through the examination of Chinese Heritage Language Learners in Australia, an idiosyncratic social, cultural, and historical context for these learners. Specifically, this study investigates how young Chinese Australian adults (18-35 in age) negotiate their 'Chineseness' and capitalise on resources through Chinese Heritage Language learning in the lived world.

The study adopts an explanatory mixed methods design to combine the quantitative approach with the qualitative approach. The initial quantitative phase addresses the first research question: Is Chinese Heritage Language proficiency of young Chinese Australian adults influenced by their investment of capital, the strength of their habitus of 'Chineseness', or both? The subsequent qualitative phase addresses the second research question: How do young Chinese Australian adults understand their Chinese Heritage Language learning in relation to (potential) profits produced by this linguistic capital in given fields? The initial quantitative phase applies Structural Equation Modelling to analyse the data from an online survey with 230 respondents. Findings indicate the statistically significant positive contribution made by the habitus of 'Chineseness' and by investment of capital to Chinese Heritage Language proficiency (r = .71 and r = .86 respectively). Subsequent multiple regression analysis demonstrates that 62% of the variance of Chinese Heritage Language proficiency can be accounted for by the joint contribution of 'Chineseness' and 'capital'. The qualitative phase of the study uses multiple interviews with five participants. It reveals that Chinese Heritage Language offers meaningful benefits for participants in the forms of capital production and habitus capture or recapture. Findings from the two phases talk to each other in terms of the inherent entanglement amongst habitus of 'Chineseness', investment of capital, and Chinese Heritage Language proficiency.

The study offers important contributions. Theoretically, by virtue of Bourdieu's signature concepts of habitus, capital, and field, the study provides answers to questions that both social psychological and poststructuralist theories have long been struggling to answer. Methodologically, the position of 'pluralism' talks back to Bourdieu's theory and forwards to the mixed methods design. Particularly, the study makes a methodological breakthrough: A set of instruments was developed and validated to quantify Bourdieu's key concepts of capital and habitus within certain social fields. Practically, understanding Chinese Australians' heterogeneity and the potential drivers behind Chinese Heritage Language learning contributes to the growing interest in Chinese Australians' contemporary life experiences and helps to better accommodate linguistically diverse Chinese Heritage Language Learners in Chinese language courses. In addition, this study is very timely. It resonates with the recently released Australia in the Asian Century White Paper: Chinese Australians, with sound knowledge of Chinese culture and language obtained through negotiating their 'Chineseness' and capitalising on diverse resources for learning, will help to serve Australia's economic, social, and political needs in unique ways.

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ID Code: 63295
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Dooley, Karen, Shield, Paul, & Doherty, Catherine
Keywords: heritage language, Chinese heritage language proficiency, heritage language learner, Chinese Australians, motivation, investment, capital, ethnic identity, chineseness, habitus, field, bourdieu, mixed methods design, structural equation modelling
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Oct 2013 07:02
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 14:43

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