English and Identity in Asia


  • Richard F. Young, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA


A common assumption is that one’s mother tongue is essentially one’s ethnocultural identity.Contact by speakers of local languages with a hegemonic language such as English is therefore seen as endangering not only the local language but also threatening the identity that speakers deem closest to them. I will argue in this paper that identifying language with identity is an oversimplification. I present societal attitudes toward English in a number of East and Southeast Asian nations and discuss the roots of those attitudes. Macro-societal attitudes towards language are, however, only one factor in the construction of ethnocultural identity in face-to-face interaction. I borrow Bucholtz and Hall’s tactics of intersubjectivity to frame my case that personal identity is constructed and negotiated by language performance in oral and literate practices and it is neither determined nor fixed by the attitudes of a society toward languages.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Richard F. Young, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Richard F. Young is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches courses in Sociolinguistics, English Syntax, Language Acquisition, and Research Methods. His research has resulted in four books, Variation in Interlanguage Morphology (Lang, 1991), Talking and Testing (Benjamins,1998), Language and Interaction (Routledge, 2008) and Discursive Practice in Language Learning and Teaching (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). He has published over 50 articles in journals and anthologies and serves on the editorial boards of four major journals.




How to Cite

Young, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, R. F. (2008). English and Identity in Asia. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 2(2), 1–13. Retrieved from https://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/ajell/article/view/44