Looking for a disappearing voice : place making, place-belongingness, and Naxi language vitality in Lijiang Ancient Town : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This thesis aims to examine the vitality of Naxi language in Lijiang Ancient Town (LAT) after the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and has since experienced rapid growth in tourism and significant social, cultural, and economic changes. To do this I explore the visibility of Naxi language in the Linguistic Landscape (LL) of LAT, the intersection between place-making efforts by government agencies and UNESCO and feelings of place-belongingness among the Naxi ethnic community, and perceptions of value towards the Naxi language among a range of stakeholders in the town. The thesis is orientated by epistemological constructivism, and I utilise a case study approach with a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were undertaken via the LL data to identify the public visibility of Naxi language within LAT. Thirty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of actors but predominately with Naxi people in order to explore their feelings, attitudes and relationship to LAT and the Naxi language. Through a series of field site visits, I also collected empirical data from observations within the town to supplement the LL analysis and interview data. Secondary textual analysis on laws and regulations was also employed to understand the place making initiatives and development trajectory of LAT through various governing bodies: China central and local government as well as UNESCO. The findings highlight that there are a number of contradictions and tensions that exist between place-making efforts by government agencies and UNESCO, and feelings of place-belongingness among the Naxi ethnic community. These contradictions and tensions are evident in the dominant tourism economy in the town and the impacts of excessive commercialisation, environmental degradation, out-migration of the Naxi population, marginalisation of the Naxi culture, interrupted social ties and declining language use. The study also reveals how in line with regulatory requirements and the promotion of LAT as a traditional Naxi homeland, the Naxi language is displayed within the LL. However, this is largely a decorative role. While it provides a visual reminder of the Naxi history and culture in LAT, it is a weak demonstration of Naxi identity and unlikely to genuinely contribute to the vitality of Naxi language. Furthermore, the value of the Naxi language and its usage in commerce and daily lives of the Naxi community relies on people’s subjective attitudes and feelings towards the language. These attitudes and feelings within the Naxi community have shifted in recent decades with the pervasion of Han culture and the predominance of Mandarin Chinese. They undermine perceptions of the positive value of the Naxi language and lead to an apathetic attitude to language learning. Place-making efforts by governing bodies and the growth of mass tourism have led to the production of an ‘inauthentic’ representation of Naxi language and culture within LAT and have interrupted the intergenerational transmission of Naxi language contributing to its state of endangerment. Naxi is a Disappearing Voice. Key words: Language vitality, place making, place-belongingness, Linguistic Landscape, Lijiang Ancient Town, World Heritage site, tourism
Naxi language, Endangered languages, Naxi (Chinese people), World Heritage areas, Tourism, Social aspects, China, Lijiang Shi