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The English Language as a Medium and Its Impact on Contemporary Chinese Culture: A Speculative Critique

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In this article, I use Marshall McLuhan's corpus as a major source of inspiration. I see the English language as a potent configuring force in contemporary Chinese culture and problematize the impact of the language by looking into its specificity as a "medium." I argue that English embodies the alphabet effect in the Chinese cultural context. It is a "hot" medium, a site of power struggles, a vehicle of Western normativities, and the gateway toward a different reality. The goal of this article is to help users of English in China develop a heightened awareness of what the language does regardless of what it conveys. I invite those awash in the "English rush" to hold a comic, sophisticated attitude toward English, and to use English with an eye for "minorizing" it from within.

Keywords: China; English; Western influence; alphabet; language

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/eme.10.1-2.39_1

Affiliations: Grand Valley State University

Publication date: February 2, 2012

More about this publication?
  • EME explores the relationships between media, technology, symbolic form, communication, consciousness, and culture. Its scope is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Media ecology provides a rich philosophical, historical and practical context for studying our increasingly technological and mediated society and culture with an emphasis on historical context.
    Media ecology scholarship emphasizes a humanistic approach to understanding media, communication, and technology, with special emphasis on the ways in which we have been and continue to be shaped and influenced by our inventions and innovation. The Media ecology approach is predicated on understanding that media, symbols, and technologies play a leading role in human affairs, and function as largely invisible environments affecting the way we think, feel, act, and organize ourselves collectively.
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