Language ideology, ethnicity, and biliteracy development: A Korean-American perspective

Mihyon Jeon, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is an ethnographic study that closely examines how language ideology, ethnicity, and Korean language maintenance through developing biliteracy are interrelated. Drawing on an interdisciplinary foundation that combines sociology of language, linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, Asian American studies, and educational linguistics, the study explores the ways in which language ideologies and ethnicity are appropriated and enacted, and their relationship to the educational processes of becoming biliterate in English and Korean. The data in this study were collected from the following research sites—a college-level Korean language program, a community-based adult ESL program, and the homes of Korean immigrant families and their school-aged children. The data collection methods included participant observation in formal and informal educational settings; informal conversations; in-depth interviews with students and teachers; and site document review. By focusing on the case of Korean Americans, this dissertation study draws our attention to language maintenance of voluntary immigrant minorities in relation to their language ideologies and ethnicity. This study demonstrates how different language ideologies, such as assimilationist vs. pluralist language ideologies, and three difference stances toward ethnicity, namely Korean ethnicity as transitional, enduring, and separate but shareable, are appropriated and enacted by the participants in their every-day language use; it also shows how these ideologies and stances toward ethnicity influence the processes through which the participants try to develop biliteracy in Korean and English. This study demonstrates that pluralist language ideologies and the stance toward Korean ethnicity as separate but sharable contribute to Korean language maintenance in the United States through facilitating biliteracy development of Korean Americans. I argue that these findings can help us to better understand the experiences and perspectives of other ethnolinguistic immigrant minorities in the United States who undergo the process of language shift from their heritage language to the dominant language or who struggle to maintain their heritage language through developing biliteracy in both languages.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Language arts|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Jeon, Mihyon, "Language ideology, ethnicity, and biliteracy development: A Korean-American perspective" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3179754.