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How Standard Zhuang has Met with Market Forces

Grey, Alexandra

The standardization and Romanization of Zhuang, the language associated with China’s largest official minority group, were the focus of the People’s Republic of China’s 20th-century Zhuang language policy (part of China’s broader minority language standardization campaign). This chapter explains how standardizing Zhuang created a linguistic icon but not a lingua franca, and explores how Standard Zhuang then interacted with marketization. Applying Bourdieu’s (1977, 1991) theory of symbolic power, the chapter argues that the economic, social and linguistic capital of Standard Zhuang has been devalued as China has marketized. Market conditions have exacerbated the obsolescence of Standard Zhuang, especially with the concomitant standardization and promulgation of a national Mandarin (Putonghua). But Standard Zhuang was not designed to fail; this case study is a warning that standardization per se will not future-proof a minority language.

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