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It is almost a cliche now that the Chinese are the least known and least understood of all Britain's ethnic minorities, despite the fact that they are one of the longest-established ethnic communities in the UK. So far very few attempts have been made which go beyond the stereotypes that the Chinese are 'self-contained' and 'self-sufficient'. Public perceptions have largely ignored the heterogeneity of the British Chinese population. In this first book-length study of the Chinese community in Britain, Dr Li Wei provides a detailed ethnography of communication in ten Chinese immigrant families in the North East of England. He focuses on generational changes in language choice preferences and code-switching strategies. As well as offering a substantial amount of systematically-collected empirical data, the study aims to develop a social model, using the concept of 'social network', which accounts for the relationship between community norms of language use and conversational strategies of individual speakers and for the relation of both to the broader social, economic and political context. Thus, while the exposition is presented primarily with reference to the example of a Chinese community in Britain, it is applicable to a range of bilingual situations, especially immigrant communities, as well as Chinese communities elsewhere.
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Vivian Cook is Emeritus Professor of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University and a visiting professor at the University of York. He has previously taught applied linguistics at Essex University and EFL and linguistics in London.
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