Undergraduate Graduate People News & Events

Elaine Chun


Areas of Specialization

Recently Taught Courses

Current Research Projects

My research examines the links between language, identity, and culture in multiethnic and multilingual settings. The general goals of my research are threefold: to describe culturally meaningful practices across a range of linguistic levels - a sound, word, sentence, or narrative; to provide a theoretical analysis of how these practices are tied to social roles and identities; and to draw attention to how speakers use these practices to reproduce and contest community understandings of race, nation, gender, and class. In recent years, I have been particularly interested in how high school youth use language styles in their everyday interactions and how their styling practices evoke locally circulating stereotypes and contribute to the circulation and negotiation of community ideologies and values.

My work relies primarily on methods of discourse analysis to examine meanings as they emerge within and across interactional moments, while also drawing on ethnographic methods of data collection and quantitative methods of sociolinguistic analysis. I have collected linguistic data in a range of research sites, including a community of multiethnic high school students near a Texas military base, a social network of college-age Korean American men, and the performances of standup comics in the Korean diaspora.

In my dissertation, which I completed in 2007, I focused on the specific practice of stylized mocking, through which speakers performed linguistic parodies of Asian immigrants and white preps. Based on fifteen months of daily participant observation and the analysis of recorded conversations, my analysis examined how stylized Asian immigrant mocking articulated with images of Asians as linguistically incompetent, comically incomprehensible, and rudely aggressive, and how stylized prep mocking lay at the ideological intersection of whiteness, class privilege, and femininity. In addition to describing the flexible linguistic resources that students used to evoke stereotypical images of Asian immigrants and hyperfeminine preps, I showed that mocking was a complex ideological practice: students often explicitly contested the very ideologies of race and national belonging on which stylized Asian mocking practices depended; they used mocking for various cultural functions, such as displaying cultural competence, socializing one another into local cultural norms, and constructing their own identities in relation to those of others; and they mocked figures whose local status was ambiguous and negotiated, such as when girls parodied preps not only as cultural critique but also as embodied experimentation.

My next significant research project examines an emerging community of Asian Americans in the South, an increasingly multiethnic region, but one that has been defined, historically and linguistically, in binary black/white terms. The overarching question I raise is how Asian Americans in the South, who may be described as "honorary white" but nonetheless "non-white," use language to negotiate the ideological terrain of race and its intersections with nation, gender, and class.

Selected Publications

Article "Speaking like Asian immigrants: Intersections of accommodation and mocking at a U.S. high school." Pragmatics 19, 17-38. (2009)

Chapter "Ideologies of legitimate mockery: Margaret Cho’s revoicings of mock Asian" [Revised reprint]. In Angela Reyes and Adrienne Lo (eds.), Beyond Yellow English: Towards a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America, 261-287. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2009)

Paper "Taking the mike: Performances of everyday identities and ideologies at a U.S. high school." In Er-Xin Lee, Kris M. Markman, Vivian Newdick and Tomoko Sakuma (eds.), SALSA XIII: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Symposium about Language and Society - Austin, 39-49. Austin, TX: Department of Linguistics, University of Texas. (2006)

Article "Ideologies of legitimate mockery: Margaret Cho's revoicings of mock Asian." Pragmatics 14, 263-289. (2004)

Proceedings Wai Fong Chiang, Elaine Chun, Laura Mahalingappa, and Siri Mehus (ed.) SALSA XI: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Symposium. Austin, TX: Department of Linguistics, University of Texas. (2004)

Article "The construction of white, black, and Korean American identities through African American Vernacular English." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11, 52-64. (2001)

Recent Presentations