label r shifted
Session B1
The Use of Language as Floating and Interfered Spaces of Borderland: Linguistic Transition of Female Migrant Spouses in Taiwan
Isabelle Cheng
School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth, UK

The use of language by migrants is a social borderland where state borders and cultural boundaries often overlap. The adoption of the local language is a struggle whereby here and there, past and present are simultaneously enacted by the mixed use of own language and local language. The advance of real-time communication allows this linguistic borderland to thrive. On social media, migrants are not uprooted as once believed but negotiating their rite of passage from an outsider to an in-between. Nevertheless, different scenarios of adoption, as a result of their varied cultural heritages, are at play in this vibrant symbolic borderland.

Taking the experiences of female migrant spouses in Taiwan as a vantage point, this paper presents this struggle amongst migrants from China and Southeast Asia and between migrants and the state of Taiwan. In a country where Mandarin as the national language coexists with Hoklo, Hakka and aboriginal languages used in daily life, and where English is regarded as instrumental to employment competitiveness, women from China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have their distinctive linguistic transition coinciding with their acquisition of multiple identities as wives, mothers, daughters-in-law and citizens. The simultaneity of these transitions is the borderland spaces where the state of Taiwan intervenes. In this dynamic borderland, the Chinese endure the association of their Mandarin accents with the repression of a communist regime, the Filipino hold onto English so as to maintain their self-esteem, the Vietnamese are once ‘muted’ by the state for the sake of ensuring their mothering capability facilitated via Mandarin speaking, whereas the Indonesian, who are of Chinese ethnicity, have greater leeway of integration because of Hokkien or Hakka speaking. Each transition speaks of a certain scenario, which, on the whole, demonstrates the nation-building project of Taiwan that is constructed by selfclaimed identities of democracy, prosperity and (half-hearted) multiculturalism.