Linguistic landscapes of the Chinese diaspora in Antwerp and Brussels

Funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC)
Joint PhD Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Universiteit Antwerpen
PhD candidate: Rui Guo
2017 – 2021
Supervisors: Rik Vosters (VUB) & Mieke Vandenbroucke (UAntwerpen)

This project will investigate the language use of Chinese immigrants as heritage language users, carrying out research on Chinese communities in multilingual Antwerp and Brussels. Antwerp and Brussels, two major cities in Belgium, are characterized by their highly multilingual environment and population. The two ethnic neighborhoods (‘Chinatowns’) attracting Chinese immigrants, who began settling here from the 1920s onwards, have grown into spaces of consumption for both Chinese and non-Chinese people (Pang, 2012, p. 14), gathering people of different backgrounds with distinct languages from various places. This complicated linguistic landscape, with diversified linguistic phenomena in the two Chinese neighborhoods render Antwerp and Brussels suitable locations for a sociolinguistic study focusing on Chinese as an immigrant minority language, where the variety of public language signs for different customers in commercial areas, language choices in different domains, language variation and change caused by language contact in people’s daily life, and similar topics in the broader domain of multilingualism and language contact deserve further exploration. Thus, this research project focuses on Chinese communities in the multilingual context of Antwerp and Brussels, from both a language sociological and a sociolinguistic perspective. In this vein, we hope to provide a new case study for the study of language use and language contact by comparing these two different Chinese neighborhoods in terms of the different languages used and their visual presence in the public spaces, the language/dialect usage among Chinese business owners in such multilingual settings, and issues of language variation and change within Chinese minority communities in Belgium.