Globalization and communication on the Internet pose challenges to sociolinguistics. China is one of the engines of the world’s economy. Since the Internet service started in 1994 in mainland China, it has been developing rapidly. This rapid development of Internet communication has created a huge impact on the Chinese language and social media. It has prompted developments both in the variety and creativity of language use. Crystal (2006) proposed the concept of Internet linguistics and further, he indicates that the linguistic future of the Internet does not only offer a home to all linguistic styles within a language, but also it offers a home to all languages. Crystal suggests that “language being such a sensitive index of social change, it would be surprising indeed if such a radically innovative phenomenon did not have a corresponding impact on the way we communicate.” Li (2002) and Ma (2002) further confirmed that Internet words and phrases have brought the tremendous impact and spread to everyday usage in Chinese societies.
The Internet lexicon in China could be considered as an instrument to understand and explain the collective thinking in the People’s Republic
Chinese Government’s Exensive Control and Censorship over the Massive Internet Users
What the social scientists can observe from the Chinese Internet, apart from the rest of the online world, is the government’s extensive control and censorship over the massive internet users. Chinese internet users employ a variety of linguistic and discourse strategies to establish their community identities and organize online interactions in order to avoid and defy censorship. It is suggested that this online discourse differs from the official discourse, which is tightly controlled by the Chinese government.
Internet Language and Hu Jintao’s Concept of a Harmonious Society (和谐社会 hexie shehui)
President Hu Jintao’s “Concept of a harmonious society” has brought a tremendous impact on the development of Internet language and Internet lexicon in mainland China. Harmony is applied as a language policy in China. The ﬁrst language law passed in China in 2000, the Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese, is an example and also a pretext of the Harmonious Society discourse that followed a few years later. Sociolinguists in China (e.g., Feng 2007; Zhou 2006; Zhang and Xie 2010) also argue that maintaining harmony in language use is an indispensable aspect of constructing a harmonious society.
“harmony” has become a proper name that stands for an explicit discourse on the rationalization, maintenance, and enforcement of stability and order by the state
It is suggested that nonstandard, non-normative, and innovative uses of language across domains, such as commercial language, literary works, and online communication, all risk violating and harming linguistic and social harmony. The concept of “a harmonious society” ( 和谐社会 hexie shehui) was ﬁrst put forth in September 2004, when former President Hu Jintao gave a speech on “building a harmonious socialist society” at the fourth plenary session of the Sixteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP). The fourth plenary session was held to discuss the building of a harmonious society and adopted The Decision on Several Critical Issues related to Building Socialist Harmonious Society. It states that:
The social harmony is intrinsic nature of the socialism with Chinese characteristics. To build a harmonious socialist society was the intrinsic demand of constructing a socialist modernized country which is prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious. Along with rapid economic development, there exist many contradictions, problems, conflicts which have affected social harmony and social stability. While the party must continue to focus on economic development; it must put the building of a harmonious socialist society in a more prominent place and make great efforts to increase harmonious factors and reduce disharmonious factors to boost social harmony.
The Emergence and Application of Internet Lexicon
The Internet lexicon in mainland China not only reflects various social changes but also links to political strategies and policies. Since opening-up to foreign trade and implementing free-market reforms in 1979, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 9.5% through 2018. With the rapid economic growth, the Internet lexicon in China has been developed and created tremendously by Chinese citizens. The Internet lexicon in China could be considered as an instrument to understand and explain the collective thinking in the People’s Republic. Since 2011 ten most popular Internet words and phrases (十大网络用语 shi da wangluo yongyu） have been released annually by National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Graphic Media Center (中国国家语言资源监测与研究中心Zhongguo guojia yuyan ziyuan jiance yu yanjiu zhongxin). The Internet lexicon has been summarized and translated in English in Table I.
Table I. Top 10 Internet lexicon of the Years 2016-2020 (十大网络用语 shida wangluo yongyu )
The rapid development of the Internet and computer-mediated communication in social media, such as QQ and WeChat, has brought tremendous impact to the Internet lexicon in Chinese society. Social media is not only an eclectic medium, but also an engine and a source to produce functioning computer technologies for everyday life through computer-mediated communication. Online messages generated by anonymous or pseudonymous users often demonstrate community identification processes. Social scientists have tried to delineate the concept from a sociolinguistic perspective. Baym (2003) identifies group-specific vocabulary and humor among the “consistent and distinctive language practices” that indicate the emergence of a coherent online community. Baym further argues that online communities emerge as participants who “create and codify group-specific meanings, socially negotiate group-specific identities, form relationships and create norms that serve to organize interaction and to maintain desirable social climates”.
On the other hand, the questions of harmony and language policy draw attention to China as both a comparative context and an interesting case in its own right. Harmony and language policy go hand in hand in China. Evolving from a well-entrenched classical Confucian thinking, “harmony” has become a proper name that stands for an explicit discourse on the rationalization, maintenance, and enforcement of stability and order by the state in reaction to the rapid economic-political changes and sociocultural diversiﬁcations resulting from the country’s modernization and globalization processes. This can be observed in the prevalent slogan of Harmonious Society championed by former President Hu Jintao and carried out consistently by President Xi Jinping. The concept of a harmonious society has impacts on the way language and communication are practiced in the public sphere in China, including in its ﬂourishing online environment. Harmony, therefore, is a crucial aspect and driving force of language policy and policing in the context of China.
– Baym N. K., Communication in online communities. In K. Christiansen & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community (Volume 3), 2003.
– Crystal, D. Language and the Internet. 2006. Cambridge: Cambridge University.
– Feng G, A theory of language harmony, Beijing: People’s Press,2007.
– Li. 浅谈网络语言对现代汉语的影响 A brief discussion of the impact of the Internet language on modern Chinese, „Social Science Front”, nr 6, 2002 , p. 265–256.
– Ma.网络用词向日常语言的渗透 The spread of Internet lexicon to everyday usage, „Journal of Northwest Industrial University”, nr 22(3), 2002 , p. 53–57.
– Zhou Q, On language harmony. Chinese Applied Linguistics, 2006.
– Zhang & Xie, An ecological perspective of language harmony in China, p.36–41, 2010.
– Announcement from Baidu, 汉语盘点_百度百科 (baidu.com)，address :https://baike.baidu.com/item/汉语盘点/12708641, accessed: 23.12.2020.
– CCP Central Committee, The Decision on a Number of Important Issues Regarding the Building of a Socialist Harmonious Society, address: http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64093/64094/4932424.html, accessed: 12.12.2007.
Crystal, D. Language and the Internet. 2006. Cambridge: Cambridge University.
 Li. 浅谈网络语言对现代汉语的影响A brief discussion of the impact of the Internet language on modern Chinese, „Social Science Front”, nr 6, 2002 , p. 265–256.
 Ma.网络用词向日常语言的渗透The spread of Internet lexicon to everyday usage, „Journal of Northwest Industrial University”, nr 22(3), 2002 , p. 53–57.
 Feng G, A theory of language harmony. Beijing: People’s Press,2007.
 Zhou Q, On language harmony. Chinese Applied Linguistics, 2006.
 Zhang & Xie, An ecological perspective of language harmony in China,p.36–41, 2010.
CCP Central Committee, The Decision on a Number of Important Issues Regarding the Building of a Socialist Harmonious Society, address : http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64093/64094/4932424.html, accessed: 12.12.2007.
 Announcement from Baidu, 汉语盘点_百度百科 (baidu.com)，adres :https://baike.baidu.com/item/汉语盘点/12708641, [accessed: 23.12.2020].
 Baym N. K., Communication in online communities. In K. Christiansen & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community (Volume 3), 2003.
IF YOU VALUE THE INSTITUTE OF NEW EUROPE’S WORK, BECOME ONE OF ITS DONORS!
Funds received will allow us to finance further publications.
You can contribute by making donations to INE’s bank account:
95 2530 0008 2090 1053 7214 0001
with the following payment title: „darowizna na cele statutowe”
Image Source: Flickr.
Comments are closed.