Contested words, gender norms and language ideologies: The gendered meaning of tai

Hsi Yao Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the slang term tai in Taiwan Mandarin and its interactions with gender norms and local language ideologies. Initially a derogatory term denoting an undesirable type of localness, tai has been appropriated to emphasise non-conformity and local identity, and has become a discursive site where ideologies concerning gender, language, localness and cosmopolitanism interact with and shape each other. Using questionnaires and news corpus data, the study reveals that female subjects evaluate tai more negatively and display a higher level of sensitivity to the role of linguistic practices in the discourse of tai than male subjects. Analysis of related news indicates that tai is strongly associated with non-standard language and non-conformity, and is less compatible with the mainstream ideal of femininity. The study reveals how word meaning is embedded in an ideological matrix in which representations of language and gender constantly interact with various intersecting strands of ideologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-60
Number of pages34
JournalGender and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Gender
  • Language ideology
  • Localness
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Meaning debate
  • Taiwanese

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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