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This article challenges the prevailing view that a non-English language in the United States will eventually shift to English over time. It argues that the status of a minority language is not determined by time but by social demographic, sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and sociocultural forces. It attempts to isolate these forces by studying the Chinese language in the United States. Factors studied as favorable to Chinese language maintenance are the following: mass immigration; a concentrated settlement and residential pattern; the rising of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status; a strong emphasis on cultural continuation and ethnic identity; an intragroup marriage pattern; interethnic cultural differences; close ties with the home country; growth of mass media; and the change of American language policy. An examination of the language status of an immigrant group provides insights into this group's social, political, economic, and cultural status.


When one group of people begins to five together with another group that speaks a different language, its language is subject to two fates: either it continues to be used by one or both groups in most societal contexts, or it is given up and replaced by a new one, which is used in most or all societal domains. The former process is called "language maintenance," and the latter, "language shift," or "language death" if the first language is no longer used.

Many studies of language maintenance and shift hold that language shift prevails over language maintenance in the United States. Macias writes, "In an immigrant country, the notions of language and culture change lead one to assume non-English language loss over time. To speak another language is only a temporary phenomenon.... Consideration of 'maintenance' language policy, then, is often viewed as temporarily delaying the inevitable (italics added) loss of the non-English language. . . " (1979:96).

As we know, however, Chinese people have been living in the United States for more than two hundred years and their language is still widely used today. Can this be explained or considered as a temporary delay of its inevitable loss? This study attempts to answer this question by viewing some social demographic, sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and sociocultural factors that have influenced the trend of the Chinese language in the United States.

Maintenance or Shift?

Although studies have found that language maintenance does exist in the United States (see Fishman 1966), most of the studies of language shift and maintenance favor the theory that language shift prevails over language maintenance in the United States. Haugen writes, "[Many immigrant languages] remained more or less temporary means of communication.... Political and social pressures have uniformly been unfavorable to their continued use and have gradually whittled down their constituencies" (Haugen 1956:11). Lieberson (1981: 1) claims that in the United States, various populations have given up their mother tongues in the course of a few generations, and that "the shift to an English mother tongue was rapid" (Lieberson 1981:158). Kloss (197 1) proposes that an immigrant group would forsake its native cultural heritage, such as language, in order to be assimilated into the host culture. Descriptions of language shift are found in studies by Benson (1937), Casagrande (1954-55), Gehrke (1935), Haugen (1953), Prince (1910), and others.

An inquiry about the status of the Chinese language in the United States was made by Wen Lang Li's study The Language Shift of Chinese-Americans (1982). Based on the analysis of the 1% public-use sample of the 1970 U.S. census, the study found that there was an accelerating shift of mother tongue from the first to the second and from the second to the third generation in the Chinese American population. Two factors were studied as significant in their effects on language maintenance and shift: (1) socioeconomic status and (2) residential pattern. A higher socioeconomic status and a concentrated residential pattern have positive effects on language maintenance and negative effects on language shift.

To determine the status of a minority language, one should look at not only the tendency between generations but also the relative proportion of the people who speak the language as a mother tongue to the people who speak it as a foreign language or a second language in terms of the overall population of the minority group. The increase of the former proportion may indicate a maintaining tendency and its decrease, a shifting tendency. The method to determine the status of a minority language by its maintaining or shifting tendency between generations is not reliable or sufficient, especially in the case of a mass immigration like Chinese, which increases the proportion of the first-generation native-language-speaking immigrants.

Furthermore, immigration, socioeconomic status, and residential patterns are only some of the factors affecting language maintenance and shift. To study how a minority language maintains its status and how it shifts to a majority language, one should take other factors into consideration, such as sociopolitical status, education, ties with the homeland, nationalism, the extent of exogamous marriage, mass media, and government language policy. All these factors interact in the process of language maintenance and shift.


Since the normalization of Sino-American relations in 1979, great changes have taken place in the Chinese American population and their society. More Chinese have immigrated from the mainland as well as Taiwan. The homeland's social, political, and economic developments have greatly raised the degree of their national pride. The sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of Chinese in America has been considerably improved. The tie with the home country has been strengthened through more social, economic, and cultural activities. More Chinese schools have been set up. The Chinese mass media, such as Chinese newspapers, magazines, and radio and television programs, have developed. A great number of Chinese students and visiting scholars have come to study in the United States. All of these developments must have reinforced the maintenance of the Chinese language in this country. Based on these facts, it is hypothesized that the Chinese language is in a process of maintenance rather than shift.

Maintenance Rather Than Shift

In studying German language maintenance in the United States, Kloss (1966:206) isolated six factors as favorable to language maintenance. They are the following: (1) religio-societal insulation; (2) time of immigration: earlier than or simultaneously with the first Anglo-Americans; (3) existence of language islands; (4) affiliation with denominations fostering parochial schools; (5) preimmigration experience with language maintenance efforts; and (6) former use as the ony official tongue during pre-Anglo-American period. He also found nine ambivalent factors, which are either favorable or unfavorable to language maintenance. These nine ambivalent factors are as follows: (1) high educational level of immigrants; (2) low educational level of immigrants; (3) great numerical strength; (4) smallness of the group; (5) cultural and/or linguistic similarity to Anglo-Americans; (6) great cultural and/or linguistic dissimilarity between minority and majority; (7) suppression of minority tongue(s); (8) permissive attitude of the majority group; and (9) sociocultural characteristics of the minority group in question (Kloss 1966:211212). Factors I and 2 can be reduced to the educational level of immigrants; factors 3 and 4 to the numerical strength of the minority group; factors 5 and 6 to the extent of cultural and/or linguistic similarity/difference between the minority and the majority group; and factors 7 and 8 to language policy of the majority group.

Of Moss's six factors favorable to language maintenance, only the existence of "language islands" can be used in the Chinese case. Factors reduced from his nine ambivalent factors are all favorable to Chinese language maintenance. Besides these factors, the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status, the extent of interethnic marriage, attitudes toward the native culture, and mass media are also significant factors in the maintenance of the Chinese language in the United States.

A Higher Immigration Rate

The numeric strength of an ethnic group in relation to other groups is one of the important factors in determining its language status. Generally speaking, a larger minority group is in a better position than a smaller one in maintaining its language: the larger the group is, the more people speak the language. A higher rate of immigration enlarges a minority group in size and increases the number of people speaking the native language, thus helping its maintenance.

Since the first Chinese came to the United States more than two hundred years ago, the numeric strength of Chinese Americans has been continuously reinforced, except during the period of exclusion (1882-1943). The Chinese became numerically significant in the mid-nineteenth century. Although the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act made the Chinese population in the United States decrease to an insignificant number in the following few decades, the number of Chinese immigrants has increased greatly since the Second World War, following a series of historical events: the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments, the normalization of the SinoAmerican relation in 1979, and the 1982 new immigration law (which allows 20,000 Taiwanese immigrants each year). The great and rapid influx of new Chinese immigrants has greatly increased the number of Chinese in the United States. Since 1940, the number of Chinese in the United States has been increasing at a rate of more than 50% (Table 1). According to the 1980 U.S. census, the Chinese American population ranked first among all Asian American populations (3.834 million). "The combined annual figures for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1985 to 1989 averaged more than 40,000" (The New York Times, Feb. 24, 1991). Today the Chinese in the United States number more than 1.64 million (U.S. 1990 Census; The World Journal, June 12, 1991), not including the number of undocumented Chinese (the Jan. 3 1991 New York Times estimated 30,000 undocumented Chinese in New York City) constituting almost one quarter (23.9%) of the total Asian American population (6.881 million, estimated by The New York Times, Feb. 24, 1991; see Figure 1.

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The great and rapid influx of new Chinese immigrants in the past half century has not only greatly increased the number of Chinese in the United States but also enlarged the proportion of Chinese-speaking Chinese in America. According to Fessler's 1983 study, the Chinese who emigrated between 1970 and 1980 cnstitute more than one-third of the total Chinese population in the United States. The 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 U.S. census studies show that the proportion of foreign-bom Chinese (mainly Mainland, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong Chinese) in the Chinese American population has increased significantly during the past forty years. With a higher rate of immigration and a lower birth rate in Chinese Americans ("The fertility rate for Chinese in the U.S. population is ... the lowest of any ethnic group" [Fessler 1983:221]), foreign-bom Chinese have been increasingly outnumbering native-born Chinese in the United States (Table 2). This increasing proportion of foreign-born Chinese-speaking Chinese is definitely helping the maintenance of Chinese in this country.

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*Note the numerical difference in Table 1. **Including Mainland China and Taiwan. Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census.

The recent great influx of Chinese immigrants has not only increased both the number of Chinese in the United States and the number of Chinese-speaking Chinese Americans but also changed the use of Chinese dialects in the United States. Previously, Cantonese and Toishanese were the main communicative media among Chinese Americans. Cantonese/Toishanesespeaking Chinese had a language barrier in their communication with speakers of other Chinese dialects. To overcome this barrier, they resorted to English. Today, with more Chinese coming from Taiwan and other parts of China than the south, Taiwan's Guo-yu (national speech) and mainland China's Pu-tong-hua (common speech = Mandarin; Guo-yu and Pu-tong-hua are similar) are being used more and more and are becoming a lingua franca among Chinese. This change is facilitating communication among Chinese, increasing the use of the Chinese language and thus helping its maintenance.

In summary, mass Chinese immigration has increased the number of native Chinese among Chinese Americans. The greater the proportion of immigrants, the more who speak the native language, and the stronger the tendency to maintain it. It is estimated that in the next decade there will be a great peak of Chinese immigration into the United States, as Hong Kong will be returned to the People's Republic of China in 1997, and there will be a possible unification of Mainland China and Taiwan. This new immigration surge will reinforce greatly the numeric strength of Chinese in America and increase the number of Chinese speakers, thus strengthening the status of the Chinese language in the United States.

A Concentrated Settlement and Residential Pattern

The United States is a vast land. If an immigrant group settles on this land dispersively, its intragroup communication will be geographically obstructed even though this group has a large population. A concentrated settlement of an immigrant group, even though the group is a small one, can strengthen its intragroup communication and facilitate its language maintenance. The history of Chinese immigration to the United States is characterized by concentrated settlement. The Chinese immigrants have clustered mainly in a small number of states (Table 3) and cities (Table 4). This concentrated settlement has increased their in-group sociocultural association and contacts, and enhanced the use of their native language therein.

Chinese immigrants in the United States have not only clustered in some states and cities, but have also resided in urban concentrations-Chinatowns-which have formed what Kloss calls "a language island of a minority group," i.e., a "circumscribed territory where the minority tongue is the principal tongue used in daily conversation" (Kloss 1966:207), a factor favoring the retention of an immigrant language. This Chinese residential pattern is of paramount importance in language maintenance. Li's study (1982) found that Chinese residing in Chinatowns shifted less toward English than those residing outside Chinatowns. This is because Chinatowns, with their concentration of Chinese residents, provide an important place for the use of Chinese. In Chinatowns, in-group political, social, economic, and cultural interaction is undertaken primarily with Chinese as the dominant communicative medium; street signs and store signboards are written in both Chinese and English; there are Chinese schools, hospitals, law firms, travel agencies, banks, hotels, cinemas, newspapers, bookstores, restaurants, various kinds of shops, etc. In such a self-sufficient Chinatown, which people have described as a city transplanted from China, one can survive from the cradle to the grave speaking only Chinese. In one sense, the existence of Chinatowns has positive effects: they provide living facilities and survival protection for the Chinese immigrants; and in another sense, their existence can be seen as negative: they close Chinese off from communication with the outside world and limit their interethnic interaction. But no matter in what sense, Chinatowns help the maintenance of the Chinese language because they afford communication facilities for the use of the Chinese language.

As Chinatowns play a very important role in maintaining the Chinese language, their growth and development help raise the status of the language. Chinatowns in the United States date back to the 1850s. The number of Chinatowns in the United States decreased before the 1950s (according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, there were twenty-eight Chinatowns in 1940 and sixteen in 1955). Since the 1950s, with the Chinese population increasing in the United States, the surviving Chinatowns have expanded, and new ones have started emerging. Take New York City as an example. Built in the mid- 1850s, New York's Chinatown has now developed into the largest in the United States. With the great growth of the Chinese population in the past few decades, not only has the old Chinatown in Manhattan been expanded but also two new satellite Chinatowns are burgeoning in New York City: the new Chinatowns in Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In addition to those in New York City, new Chinatowns are also found in Chicago, Houston, and other cities. Today, both the larger Chinatowns in New York City and San Francisco and the smaller ones in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and many other cities are developing. They are housing more and more Chinese. The city of Monterey Park, a Los Angeles suburb, has become a home to 20,000 Taiwanese immigrants, constituting one-third of the city's total population (Hsu 1989:98). Ile Chinese population in New York City is now estimated at about 300,000, and half of them are living in Chinatowns. The increasing number of Chinatowns and the growth of their populations have made the Chinese language become more and more important in terms of in-group communication and placed it in a better position for maintenance.

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The Chinese in the United States have created "cities" within cities and communities within communities. This concentrated residential pattern of the Chinese Americans is one of the important reasons why the Chinese have not lost themselves entirely within their American surroundings after so many generations and why Chinese as a minority language has survived for hundreds of years.

The Raising of Sociopolitical and Socioeconomic Status

The status of a minority group's language is closely related to this group's sociopolitical and socioeconomic status. Li's study (1982) found that the proportion of Chinese Americans maintaining Chinese as their mother tongue is greater in populations of higher socioeconomic status than in the lower socioeconomic population. The higher the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of a minority group, the greater roles its language can play, and the higher status its language has. This is why some groups of a higher sociopolitical and socioeconomic status can maintain their languages as dominant languages even though they are minorities (this is the case of many colonists' languages). So it can be said that the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of a group is more important than its size for language maintenance. 'Me current maintaining trend of the Chinese language in the United States is not only due to the increasing Chinese population in the United States but also to their rising sociopolitical and socioeconomic status in the past few decades.

Throughout their history in the United States, the Chinese were not viewed positively until recently. They were often referred to as "pigtails," "hatchet men ... .. Oriental sick men," and 11 coolies," and were associated with activities such as killings and prostitution. This negative image of the Chinese culminated in 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, the first immigration legislation which set race as a determining criterion for entry into the United States. Although by the turn of the 20th century, Chinese had begun to enter the professions, and in the late 1940s, the Chinese middle class began to participate in mainstream American society, it was not until very recently that the traditional image of the Chinese began to change, owing to the great achievements and contributions the Chinese people have made to the United States and to the world in the past twenty years. Today, the Chinese in American are no longer working only as restaurateurs, sweatshop ladies, and small storekeepers. They have entered the professions which were formerly reserved for Americans, such as medicine, law, architecture, higher education, judgeship, entrepreneurship, and industry. According to the Mei-hua-min-jen-lu 1984 (Who's Who of Sino-Americans 1984), of 2,715 Chinese Americans, 83% are doctoral degree holders; 6% are master's degree holders; and 62% are in the academic field, 21% in business, 12% in the medical field, 3% in the political realm, and 1% in law. Four Chinese Americans won the Nobel Prize. The Chinese in America are now considered a model minority group (Kitano and Sue 1973), and the best educated minority ethnic group in the United States (U.S. Dept. of Commerce 1983a, 1983b; Hsu 1989; Tsai 1989). Recently, more and more Chinese are taking important positions in the U.S. government. Chinese in the United States are no longer the objects but the subjects of the history of the country. They are drawing more and more attention and interest from Americans. To know more about the Chinese and China, more and more Americans are studying the Chinese language (see Cohen and Baldwin 1985 survey). Courses in Chinese studies are taught in more and more universities. According to Brod's study (1988), the number of students enrolled in the study of the Chinese language in higher education has been increasing since 1968 (except 1977; Table 5). In many social domains, both informal and formal, interethnic communication using the Chinese language is no longer a strange phenomenon. This force of Chinese-speaking Americans has not only strengthened but also raised the status of the Chinese language in the United States.

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The rising sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of Chinese Americans and the rapid sociopolitical, socioeconomic, scientific and technological developments in their home country in the past twenty years have raised national pride in Chinese Americans. They no longer feel ashamed but proud to be Chinese and to speak Chinese.2

Cultural Forces

The cultural characteristics of a given ethnic group constitute one important factor in language maintenance. Chinese traditionally emphasize collectivity. This tradition has made them, for the most part, rely upon social organizations for their social, political, and economic life. Kuo (1977: 10) estimated more than 150 Chinese associations in New York City's Chinatown. These Chinese social organizations perform various kinds of functions: helping the maintenance of order in Chinese communities, protecting the rights and interests of Chinese Americans, doing charitable work, providing recreational activities, organizing religious activities, providing facilities for businesspeople, etc. All these Chinese organizations play an important role in strengthening Chinese in-group interaction, in which the Chinese language is used dominantly in communication. In this way, the Chinese propensity for an organized life has helped the maintenance of its language in the United States.

The traditional Chinese family structure also facilitates the maintenance of the language. Chinese families, for various reasons, are more likely to be organized in a complex form than western families. The traditional joint and extended families are still common among Chinese Americans for different reasons. For example, newcomers need old-timers' financial and emotional support; babies need care from their grandparents because of the high cost of daycare; family enterprises need collective economic undertakings; housing is increasingly expensive; etc. In these families, several generations are living together. The older generations, who usually speak only Chinese or use Chinese mainly in daily communication, "force" the younger generations to learn Chinese in order to communicate with them. It is a Chinese tradition for the older generation to look after the younger generation at home. It is in a process of child-raising that the older generation passes on its language to the younger generation. In this way, the Chinese (extended or complex) family serves as a primary school, in which the Chinese language is part of the curriculum and the elders are the teachers. That is why the native language is preserved more effectively in a Chinese family than in a family from western culture and why Chinese is preserved more successfully in a more complex Chinese family than in a simpler one.

Familism is considered a peculiar product of Chinese culture. In Chinese familism, a person is nothing but an outcast and vagabond if he is cut off from his family. This Chinese familism has a stronger hold on the Chinese when they are living in a foreign land thousands of miles away from their homes. Chinese are not prone to leave their homeland because, as the proverb goes, "at home every day fine; abroad trouble all the time," and if for some reason they have to leave their homeland, it is not so easy for them to be cut off from it. They try by all means to maintain a closer tie with it and they long for it. The idea that "falling leaves go to the roots" has a very strong hold on older Chinese. This homeward orientation has made Chinese more homeloving and home-bound and given them the reputation of sojourners in the West and prevented them from complete integration into American society. Brought up and dominated by this familism, Chinese in the United States keep a very close tie with their home country: they write, call, visit, and send money home frequently. All of these activities increase the opportunities to use Chinese, thus helping its maintenance.

An Intraethnic Marriage Pattern

The marriage pattern of an ethnic group is also an important factor in determining its language status. A tendency toward interethnic marriage usually causes language shift, as a result of frequent interethnic language contact. A tendency toward intraethnic marriage can help the maintenance of an ethnic group's language because of frequent intraethnic communication with its language as the main communicative medium. The Chinese in the United States belong to the latter case. They have a stronger tendency toward intragroup marriage, due to their different social norms and cultural values from other ethnic groups, especially the groups of western culture.

First, the stronger tendency toward intragroup marriage among Chinese in America is due to differences in attitudes toward sex and sexual behavior between Chinese and Americans. To the Chinese, sex leads to marriage, which leads to children. To Americans, sex is more a matter of love than marriage and propagation. Chinese sexual behavior is more situation-centered while American sexual behavior is more individual-centered. Chinese lovers tend to avoid public showing of intimacy and affection. This is because Chinese sociocultural norms require individual enjoyment to be overshadowed by the social situation. On the contrary, American sexual behavior is individualized. An American lover enjoys complete ecstasy and exclusive affection and his emotions can overshadow almost everything else. To the Chinese, this American way of love seems to be licentious.

Second, Chinese familism imposes a strong influence upon the Chinese tendency toward intraethnic marriage. Chinese familism requires that children obey parents and individual feelings be subordinate to the family's feelings. The traditional practice of parental arrangement of marriage is found still persistent among Chinese Americans. Chinese parents have strong control over the marriage affairs of their children and want them to be married to other Chinese. This parental interference in children's marriage affairs is especially strong among the first-generation parents, whose marriages were more or less interfered with or arranged by their parents. Although the third generation is not as much interfered with as the second generation in marriage affairs, other sociocultural differences mentioned above between Chinese and Americans also limit their intermarriage with Americans.

Third, Chinese society is traditionally a patrilineal society, in which women are subordinate to men.This patrilineal tradition explains why fewer Chinese men marry American women. The Chinese man is head of the family, and he controls almost all of the family affairs. On the contrary, the American woman considers herself equal to her husband and wants equal influence in family affairs. Due to this difference, a male-chauvinist Chinese man cannot marry an "equal" American woman because he thinks that the American woman is "too" independent and beyond his control.

The Chinese intraethnic marriage tendency is made possible by another factor: a tendency toward a balanced sex ratio among Chinese in the United States. According to Fessler's study, in 1890, the male-female ratio among Chinese in the United States was 2,688 to 100, but by 1970, this ratio changed to 110.7 to 100 (Table 6), and by 1980 it was closer to parity (Fessler 1983:188).

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The discussion above shows that interethnic cultural similarity will facilitate the process of acculturation and language shift, while interethnic cultural difference will hinder this process. The common cultural background shared by European immigrants and Americans has facilitated the latter's integration into American society, while the different cultural backgrounds between Americans and Chinese have made it difficult for the latter to be assimilated into, and acculturated by, the former. This difference explains in some way why some European languages, such as Czech, Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish, have shifted quickly to English, while Chinese has been able to maintain itself in the past two hundred years.

A Stronger Emphasis on Cultural Continuity and Ethnic Identity

As language is an integral part of a culture, retaining their ethnic mother tongue is considered by the Chinese as an important medium for maintaining their culture and marking their ethnic identity. In achieving this, Chinese education is playing a primary role. Chinese schooling in the United States is more than eighty years old. The Overseas Chinese Public School in New York City was set up in 1908 and has now developed into the largest Chinese school in the United States. With many Chinese families immigrating into the United States in the past few decades, Chinese education has become an urgent need for the immigrant children. To meet this need, more and more Chinese schools have been set up in the past few years. Now it is estimated that there are about four hundred Chinese schools in the United States (Yang 1989:166), in which Chinese children can learn Chinese, Chinese history, Chinese culture, and related subjects. Chinese parents want their children to learn Chinese so that they can know more about Chinese culture. They think that speaking Chinese is an essential mark of being Chinese. American-born Chinese also consider learning and using Chinese as an expression of their cultural heritage and ethnic identity. Many of them choose Chinese as a second language in their school studies. Most of them can understand, many can speak, quite a few can read, and some can write, Chinese. Kloss (1977:289-290) points out: "Only when the immigrant generation has succeeded in giving its native languages firm roots among the grandchildren, only when the immigrant generation has made the sacrifices for a private cultivation of the language, only when they have taken root in the new country while retaining their native language, can they demand that the state come to their aid and promote their language." Chinese in America have been making a great effort in doing so and have made great achievements in this respect.

The changing characteristics of new immigrant Chinese also favor Chinese language maintenance. The new immigrants in the past few decades have received more education in their mother tongue through disciplined Chinese language and literary studies. They came with strong and conscious national sentiments as they possess richer knowledge of national history and ethnic culture. These make them more conscious of cultural maintenance and ethnic identity. Old Chinese immigrants, who, for the most part, came from rural settings, have only a simpler feeling of the necessity for Chinese cultural maintenance, while most of the new immigrants not only have such a strong feeling but also put that feeling into action. They expose their children more to Chinese culture by sending them to Chinese school, giving them Chinese education at home, and deliberately creating situations in which Chinese is used. All these efforts made toward Chinese cultural maintenance have enabled the second and subsequent generations of Chinese in America to continue thinking of themselves in ethnic terms and to maintain positive attitudes and strong interests with respect to the heritage of their grandparents, which has immediate positive consequences for Chinese language maintenance.

Growth of Mass Media

The mass media are extremely functional in spreading a language and expanding its use, and therefore are important avenues of language maintenance.

Chinese newspapers published in the United States date back to the mid- 1800s. The earliest Chinese daily newspaper was actually published in the United States (Lo and Lai 1977). The great increase in Chinese immigrants in the 1870s boosted Chinese journalism in America. In 1883, the first Chinese journal was established in New York City. In 1974, there were thirteen Chinese newspapers,(three were bilingual) published in San Francisco, eleven in New York City, and three (one was bilingual) in Los Angeles (Lo and Lai 1977). In 1977, New York City's Chinatown had the greatest number of Chinese journals (Lo and Lai 1977). "In the Spring of 1981 news vendors [in New York City's Chinatown] offered eight different Chineselanguage dailies" (Fessler 1983:259). Today, more than thirteen different Chinese newspapers are sold in New York's Chinatown, not including the free newspapers published by religious organizations. The Shi Jie Ri Bao (the World Journal) is now the Chinese paper with the largest circulation in the United States (Yang 1989). Besides newspapers, countless other Chinese publications, such as books, magazines, and journals from the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are sold in many bookstores. Most first-generation Chinese immigrants depend upon Chinese newspapers and other Chinese publications as their main news and reading sources.

In the past few decades, Chinese radio and television broadcasting has rapidly developed. Chinese radio stations are now found in the large cities where Chinese are concentrated, such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston. In New York City, there are three Chinese radio stations: the America-Canada Chinese Radio Station covers North America, and the Voice of Overseas Chinese broadcasts twenty-four hours a day. The Chinese radio stations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston have established many branch stations by satellite.

In 1985 there were eleven Chinese television stations in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. United Chinese Television in New York City has not only local programs but also programs from Taiwan and the PRC, providing entertainment, education, news, and advertising in Chinese. China Night from the PRC ranks as the second most popular program of all of the fourteen international programs on New York City Education Television (WNYE) (Yang 1989:169). The International Channel, which covers California, Washington State, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, now has fourteen hours of Cantonese television programs each week, produced by Hong Kong-based television broadcasts. In New York City's Manhattan Chinatown, there are three cinemas and dozens of video movie rental stores, where Chinese movies from the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are available.

My study shows that more than 90% of the Chinese population in New York City has been more or less exposed to Chinese mass media. They either read Chinese newspapers and magazines, or listen to Chinese radio, or watch Chinese television programs. Chinese radio and television programs and movies have played an important role in maintaining the Chinese mother tongue among both literate and illiterate Chinese in America. Chinese mass media not only introduce Chinese immigrants to their new environment but also enable them to maintain ties with their homeland, their culture, and their native language.

Change in the American Language Policy

The United States is basically an immigrant and multicultural country. Its view of language rights and policies has been affected by its experiences in interethnic and intercultural interactions. Its language policy reflects not simply its educational policy but also its political policy, which have had an immediate effect upon the status of minority languages.

The time before the 1960s saw language discrimination against cultural minorities. For example, Jordan (1921) proposed that English should be the ordinary medium of communication for immigrants in homes, churches, and newspapers, and that this should be made a condition of immigrants' admission to U.S. citizenship. In 1943, a law was passed forbidding foreign language study before age 10 or the end of the fourth grade in Hawaii, where the majority of the population were non-English speakers (Haugen 1956:108). This situation continued until the late sixties and the early seventies, when the civil rights movement led to a gradual acceptance by the larger society of minorities' histories and cultures as parts of a multicultural America. This movement made great changes in legislation, which contributed greatly to the change in the American language policy. For example, "the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its 1975 amendments now provide for determining that an election is in violation of the Act and thus discriminatory if it is exclusively in English . . . " (Macfas 1979:93). Especially important is the 1968 Bilingual Education Act, amended in 1974 and again in 1978, which for the first time in the United States demanded as a law that federal funds should be allotted to the public schools for bilingual education. It is "recognizing a social need, authorizing the expenditure of public funds for the development of model school programs for limited and non-English speaking students ... encouraging many states to repeal and remove laws which prohibited the use of non-English languages, or which mandated the exclusive use of English (Macfas 1979:93).

Chinese bilingual education started in public schools in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1969. On the East Coast, it started even earlier. According to the Directory ofAsian and Pacific American Bilingual Programs in June 1980, Chinese bilingual programs were found in thirtyfive school districts in ten states and Washington, D.C., which were supported by either local, state, or national funds.

The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s also influenced Asian Americans and other minority groups to demand the establishment of ethnic studies programs in universities. In 1968 and 1969, students at San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley, went on strike to demand the establishment of Third World programs on their campuses. Since then, Asian American studies programs, especially Chinese American studies programs, have been established and developed in more and more universities. According to The College Blue Book, in 1978 twenty-one colleges had Chinese programs and the number rose to about fifty in 1989. The change in American language policy from its restricting the use of minority languages to assisting their education and use has developed Chinese education, increased the number of people leaming and using Chinese, and thus helped its maintenance.


Li states, "As the generations have progressed, they [Chinese Americans] have gradually lost the ability to retain their native language.... The longer an immigrant group has lived in America, the greater is the loss of linguistic heritage.... Chinese Americans show the strongest inclination to forsake their heritage" (1982:114-115). 1 cannot fully agree with this statement because more than two hundred years have passed since the Chinese started to live in this country, and today the Chinese language is still widely used. The Spanish-speaking and Germanspeaking groups who have lived in the United States for centuries (the former for nearly four centuries and the latter for more than two centuries) have also succeeded in maintaining their languages. This study has demonstrated that many sociocultural dynamics are propelling the trend of the maintenance of Chinese in the United States. The underlying dynamics of its maintenance are the maintenance of the Chinese social norms and cultural values and their rapid sociopolitical and socioeconomic developments made both in the United States and in their home country.

My study of New York City's Chinatowns shows that Chinese is maintaining almost all of its functions in intraethnic social interaction. It is used in almost all social, political, economic, and cultural activities and in most, if not all, societal domains, such as the family, school, church, occupation, business, etc. Ile maintenance of its functions in all these societal domains demonstrates its maintaining, rather than shifting, position. As language maintenance and shift in multiethnic or multicultural communities represent, respectively, the persistence and transition of the ethnic or cultural identities of these communities, we can say that the cur-rent maintenance of the Chinese language represents a persistence of Chinese culture and ethnic identity.

In conclusion, Anisman states, "If language is a form of human behavior, and if it is indeed culturally transmitted.... why not be prepared for linguistic as well as cultural pluralisms? It is patently naive to state as some have done, ' . . . language and culture are very largely lost in first and second generations. . . ' (Glazer and Moynihan (1963:13)" (Anisman 1979:57-58).


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