The Linguistic Construction of the Tóngzhì Community

Andrew Wong, Qing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This article studies the use of linguistic resources to construct an “imagined community” in a Chinese gay and lesbian magazine. Four groups of linguistic resources are examined: terminology from gay and lesbian cultures in the West, the women’s movement, Chinese revolutionist discourse, and the Chinese kinship system. We show that the producers of the magazine draw on resources from various discourses, but they do not adopt them in their entirety. These resources are reworked and combined to construct an imagined Chinese gay community with its own distinctive style. We argue that to understand how social meanings are expressed through style and how style makes one community distinct from another, it is essential to examine a broad range of symbolic resources that are appropriated and combined by individuals or groups. This process of "bricolage" also underscores the agency of language users and the dynamic nature of linguistic practice. In constituting a new discourse of resistance and negotiating community boundaries, language users as social agents act on preexisting linguistic symbols and give them new meanings. Finally, we suggest that, although ideology mediates the manner in which linguistic resources are used, it is also reproduced through language use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-278
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Linguistic Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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