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A Corpus-based Investigation of Guomin

Cao, Qing (2018) 'A Corpus-based Investigation of Guomin.', Journal of Chinese Sociolinguistics, 31 (2). pp. 13-28.


One of the fundamental changes in modern China is the transformation from a traditional dynasty to a modern nation-state. However institutional transformation is often pushed and guided by a system of ideas. Previous studies on late Qing transformation give insufficient attention to the role of language in the ideational world of representation. Based on a corpus-centred empirical study, this article examines the prevalent notion of guomin in late Qing from the perspective of conceptual map and semantic regrouping. It argues that, contrary to the conventional understanding of the term as highlighting such values as liberty and individualism, guomin prioritises obligations of the people to the state to transfer their loyalty from the family to the newly imagined nation-state. Thus, guomin as a newly risen term after the 1895 Jiawu defeat, became an elitist demand for normative behaviours on the part of people as part of China’s nation-state building. The article delineates four levels of semantic meanings of guomin as a statist construction of a new ‘national people’ in order to transform the Qing empire to a modern republic.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Date accepted:28 September 2019
Date deposited:06 May 2022
Date of first online publication:December 2018
Date first made open access:06 May 2022

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