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I feel therefore I am: Stance and identity in Chinese heritage language writing
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Abstract

Transitioning from speaker to writer is a challenge that heritage language (HL) learners often face in a formal school setting. A fundamental task for HL writers is to express stance and position in relation to readers, texts, and ideas they possess. Yet, little is known about how HL writers’ pragmatic repertoire meets these discursive needs. Given these learners' unique, albeit uneven, access to two language systems, scholars have recently speculated that HL learners’ desired identity and bilingual exposure may influence their pragmatic choice and learning (Taguchi, 2015). This study explores this under-researched area of heritage learner pragmatics by examining HL writers’ stance-taking and identity-positioning strategies. Specifically, this study examines HL learners’ use of the “I + cognitive verb” construction, wǒ juéde “I feel”. Combining corpus and discourse approaches, this study analyzes how the use of this construction manifests HL writer’s performance of ideational, interpersonal, and textual positioning (Ivanič & Camps, 2001), compared to L1 and L2 writers. The main dataset consists of 2,108 occurrences of wǒ juéde from 6,511 blog entries by Chinese HL learners. Two additional corpora of similar size are compiled and used as baseline for comparison: one comprised of microblogs by native speakers and the other of compositions by L2 learners of Chinese. Occurrences of wǒ juéde in the three corpora are coded for syntactic position, discourse scope, and proposition content. Analyses of log likelihood, keywords, collocates, clusters and n-grams are performed on all datasets. The analysis shows a clear preference by HL writers for wǒ juéde and distinctive features in their identity positioning. The results are discussed in relation to stance, identity, and bilingual pragmatic competence (Kecskés, 2016). The findings suggest that the unique discourse-pragmatic features in HL writing indicate HL writer’s different focuses and preference, reflecting a hybrid nature of heritage learner pragmatics.

Summary

This study examines the use of “I + cognitive verb” construction, wǒ juéde “I feel” in Chinese heritage language (CHL) writers’ performance of ideational, interpersonal, and textual positioning. The findings reveal discourse-pragmatic features of CHL writing distinct from L1 and L2 writing, suggesting a hybrid nature of heritage learner pragmatics.

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