The linguascape of urban youth culture in Mongolia

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This thesis deals with the movement of language in the current globalized world, looking specifically at the spread and role of English and other additional languages in the context of urban youth culture in contemporary Mongolia. Since Mongolia transformed from communism to democracy in 1990, the role of foreign language has been viewed mainly through two popular ideologies. On the one hand, the society has embraced the notion of ‘linguistic diversity’, as an important means to interact with the modern globalized world. This trend, however, is practiced through the idea of ‘pluralization of pure monolingualism’. On the other hand, the spread of multiple languages are also viewed as ‘dystopic’ by some areas of society, and perceived as a potential threat to the fabric of Mongolian language and culture. Moving away from these two dominant ideologies, this thesis suggests an alternative way of thinking about language that allows for other linguistic possibilities in Mongolia. Drawing on Arjun Appadurai’s theory of ‘scapes’ and the ‘translingual’ movement in recent applied/sociolinguistics, this thesis offers the new conceptual notion of ‘linguascape’ - transnational linguistic resources circulating across the current transnational world of flows. Following translingualism, linguascape not only moves beyond the traditional terms such as ‘bi/multilingualism’ and ‘code-switching’, but also concerns the recombination of linguistic and semiotic resources as central to one’s language practices. Linguascape further enhances the analytic potentiality of translingualism, which has not yet adequately addressed the diversity in individuals’ language practices in relation with various other scapes. Linguascape thus explores five dimensions of ‘scapes’ – ethnoscape (transnational mobility of people), mediascape (flows of media, images, information, culture), technoscape (movement of technology), financescape (flows of capital and money), and ideoscape (flows of ideas and ideologies) in relation to one’s language practice. Revealing the complex relationship between young people’s locatedness in different types of ‘scapes’ and their engagements with transnational linguistic and cultural resources, linguascape seeks to provide us with a better understanding of differences in young people’s translingual practices based on the intersecting dynamics of rural/urban, privileged/unprivileged and other backgrounds, factors and characteristics. The research takes a ‘linguistic (n)ethnographic’ approach constituted by online and offline participant observations, group discussions, and interviews with the members of urban youth culture in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, mobilized by the ‘transtextual’ and ‘transmodal’ analytic frameworks to illustrate the multiple function of various linguistic resources in young people’s everyday lives. The thesis finally argues that the movement of linguistic resources in current globalization needs to be understood as linguistic practice – ‘linguascaping’ - in conjunction with other demographic, media-cultural, technological, financial and ideological realities in the society. This new concept correspondingly seeks to contribute to the foreign language higher education policy in Mongolia, in its careful re-assessment of the complexity of contemporary cultural and linguistic experience of its language learners.
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