Publication details [#54353]

Liu, Jin. 2011. Deviant writing and youth identity: Representation of dialects with Chinese characters on the internet. Chinese Language and Discourse 2 (1) : 58–79.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper examines the emergence of the representation of dialect with Chinese characters (fangyan wenzihua) on the Internet. The online dialect writing is primarily identified as a subject of Internet language and youth language study. The CMC discourse as a hybrid register mixing spoken and written language features facilitates the written use of oral dialect on the Internet. Deviating from the standard Chinese writing system, the Internet-savvy youth transcribe their native dialects on an ad hoc basis, which celebrates multiplicity, creativity, individuality and resists uniformity, standardization, and institutionalization. Taking the SHN website ( as a case study, the paper discusses how the written Shanghai Wu words are explored to mark a distinct visual style and to articulate a distinct local youth identity. Furthermore, this paper examines the dominant strategy of phonetic borrowing in dialect transcription on the Internet. It is argued that diachronically, the youth's phonocentric obsession tapped into the May Fourth tradition of the baihua vernacular movement that was heavily influenced by the European logocentrism; and synchronically, the celebration of dialect sound on the Internet echoes the contemporary soundscape of local dialects formed in the mass media in recent years.