A Critical Discourse Study of Indigenous Language Revitalisation Policy in Taiwan
Ting, Chien Ju
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This interdisciplinary study, at the intersection of language policy, Indigenous language revitalisation, Taiwan studies and critical discourse studies (CDS), investigated the Indigenous language revitalisation policies in Taiwan and explored how they have influenced Indigenous language revitalisation. In Taiwan, there are 16 officially recognised Indigenous languages and all of them are endangered. Since the 1990s, in line with the international trend, several Indigenous language-related policies have been released by the government in support of these languages. However, these efforts have not born fruitful results. After surveying the literature and the current policies in Taiwan, this study found that the inefficacy of these policies has not been sufficiently investigated via a critical lens. Therefore, a CDS approach was deployed to investigate the power imbalance and ideology relating to the policy discourse. Two sets of data were involved in this investigation: language revitalisation policy documents and interviews with Indigenous participants. Overall, this study found that, while the language policies construct the government as supportive of the Indigenous languages, at the same time they appear to recontextualise Indigenous language revitalisation that enables the government to brand Taiwan as a national identity, steering clear of the China-centric ideology. In response, the Indigenous participants are willing to accept this nation-building discourse with the hope that the government can save their languages. This, I suggest, is evident through a Stockholm-syndrome-like behaviour in the way they talk about language revitalisation. I call this behaviour linguistic Stockholm-syndrome (LSS) whereby the Indigenous participants support the government’s claims and sympathise with the obstacles the government faces. Even though the participants are framed as the victim under LSS, they later claim their language ownership by showing willingness to share their languages with the non-Indigenous majority, thereby also sharing Indigenous language revitalisation responsibilities. This process signals that a language essentialist ideology for language revitalisation within the policy scope is no longer preferred by the Indigenous community and that Indigenous language revitalisation needs to take a broader approach and include non-Indigenous people within the policy ideology. While this study focuses on Taiwan’s Indigenous language revitalisation policies, the theoretical and methodological contributions of this study could be applied widely to studies of minority languages worldwide. Also, a CDS methodology is shown to be appropriate for policy studies relating to Indigenous language revitalisation. In so doing, I hope to raise awareness of the power imbalance and ideology surrounding the Indigenous language revitalisation policies, and also hope that this may assist other Indigenous peoples with their own language revitalisation efforts.