Language shift and language accommodation across family generations in Taiwan

Todd L. Sandel, Wen Yu Chao, Chung-Hui Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This study explored language shift and accommodation among bilingual Mandarin and Tai-gi (also called Hokkien, Holo, Tai-gu, Taiwan Min, Taiwanese) families in Taiwan. From the 1940s until the 1980s the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Taiwan promoted Mandarin Chinese. Recent years have witnessed a shift in policy: since 2001 elementary schools throughout Taiwan offered mother-tongue education as a way to preserve and maintain Taiwan's mother tongues. This paper is based upon interviews with 58 parents who lived in both urban and rural locations and whose children were enrolled in mother-tongue classes. Interview responses were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative analysis found significant language shift occurring from Tai-gi to Mandarin among parents and children, and a faster shift in urban versus rural environments. Qualitative analysis examined the perceived processes and meanings of language shift. Many parents spoke of accommodation as affecting language shift: they spoke Tai-gi to elders, mixed Tai-gi and Mandarin to peers, and Mandarin to children. Most parents perceived Tai-gi as more intimate than Mandarin and the source of tradition, while Mandarin was the language of public discourse. The perceived link between language and identity varied across location as most rural parents linked Tai-gi with a Taiwanese identity while urban parents did not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-147
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2006


  • Accommodation
  • Identity
  • Language ideologies
  • Language shift
  • Mother tongue education
  • Taiwan


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