Language Relations on Shamian: A Study of Sales Aggression Triggered by Language in a Trilingual Community
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAsia Pacific Journal of Anthropology. 2020, 21 (4) https://doi.org/10.1080/14442213.2020.1795707
This ethnographic study of a souvenir shop in China involves customers who typically use one of three languages: Cantonese, Mandarin or English. Arguably a triglossia, the languages have different connotations in terms of formality and intimacy. The language used positions the speaker within a cognitive map of sociability, affecting the treatment of the customer. This study finds that the speakers of the more intimate language tend to get better treatment. With speakers of Cantonese and, to a lesser degree, Mandarin, the priority is to remain on good terms beyond this interaction, whereas with English speakers the priority is to extract the maximum economic gain from the interaction.