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I “Speak Chinese, but ...”: code-switching and identity construction among Chinese-Filipino youth

Johanna O. Zulueta


The younger generations of Chinese-Filipinos have assimilated themselves in Philippine society, adapting to local customs and traditions, as well as speaking in English and Tagalog. While most of these Chinese-Filipinos have Hokkien as their first language, for some of the younger generations, English or Tagalog has become the first language acquired, supplanting Hokkien, thus the inability to converse in the Chinese dialect. However, what is distinct with these younger ethnic Chinese is the inclusion of Hokkien words and/or phrases when talking to their co-ethnics. These Chinese-Filipinos tend to shift from Hokkien to Tagalog to English. It is apparent that this code-switching is a conscious effort to maintain an ethnic identity and a sense of belongingness to the ethnic Chinese community, while being members of a larger Filipino community. This study looks at the occurrence of code-switching among the younger generation of Chinese-Filipinos, its factors and implications in the construction of an ethnic identity. It is also argued that this particular switch, while serving as an instrument for the maintenance of a distinct identity and a sense of belongingness to the Chinese community, also serves as a cultural and social capital for this group to establish their place in Philippine society.


ethnic identity; hybridity; code-switching; Chinese- Filipinos; Chineseness; Hokkien; Tagalog.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.1808-0820.cali.2007.65395

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