Speaking like Asian immigrants: Intersections of accommodation and mocking at a U.S. high school

Elaine W. Chun

Abstract

This article explores the relationship between immigrant and non-immigrant Asian American youth identities and the use of language to manage this relationship. Focusing on everyday interactions at a high school in Texas, the analysis examines how fluent English-speaking Korean and Filipino American students draw on linguistic resources associated with Asian immigrants, thus attending to generational identity, an important, though often oversimplified, social dimension in transnational contexts. According to the present analysis, salient generational differences may exist between Asian American youth, yet their linguistic practices complicate simple binaries of opposition. Specifically, this article focuses on how fluent English-speaking students both accommodate toward and mock Asian immigrant speech and notes that these ostensibly divergent practices exhibit linguistic overlap. It is argued that the convergences and divergences of these practices can be productively examined by distinguishing between the levels of frame and ideology, thus explaining how speakers interpret Asian immigrant revoicings as accommodation, mocking, or, in some cases, an ambiguous linguistic act that hovers in between.

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