First Advisor

Susan B. Poulsen

Term of Graduation

Spring 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Adolescence -- Taiwan -- Taipei, Self-perception in adolescence -- Taiwan -- Taipei, Social interaction -- Taiwan -- Taipei, Fast food restaurants -- Taiwan -- Taipei



Physical Description

1 online resource (161 pages)


One of the discriminating changes that Taiwan is experiencing is a shift in young people's view of "self," manifested in and through their daily activities within its cultural context (Yang, 1981). The question arises, how do Taiwan's adolescents shape their view of "self' within this contemporary context at the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures? This thesis examined on how Chinese adolescent identity was constituted symbolically in and through their speech practices within a public social context, a typical Westernized dining place--McDonald's, a U.S. fast food restaurant, and how such a locale both served and made sense by these urban adolescents.

The study utilized the ethnography of communication as a descriptive theoretical-framework to contextualize the phenomena studied, and to capture communicative patterns in the adolescent speech community. Symbolic interactionism was used to conceptualize the formation of "self' and "the other" through adolescents' interactions. An overview of Taiwan and the cultural features of identity within Confucianism were illustrated to situate the object of inquiry and to capture the contextual richness of the study.

Field work was conducted in Taipei, Taiwan, lasting four-and-a half months. Research methods included in situ interviews, observations and collection of cultural artifacts. Findings revealed a set of salient events including "talking" and "eating." The function of McDonald's was perceived as a place "to talk," "to eat," "to take a break," "to meet friends," "to use free facilities", "to study", "to have a date", and "to escape from the weather." McDonald's also served the function of providing working and learning opportunities for adolescents to enlarge their social world. Major emic categories of this urban fast food locale were identified as "comfortable," "free," "fun/happy," and "relaxed."

Features of adolescent identity emerged from their speech practices, including (1) freedom vs. restriction, (2) gender identity, and (3) individual competence. Adolescent identity was presented as "free," "playful," "relaxed," and "fun." The "free," "playful," "relaxed," "fun" sense of self was found in individual adolescent customer-employees' communicative behavior. This coincided with the concept of "I" in Symbolic Interaction theory. A Confucian view of self was found within the operational level between employee-customer interactions. In summary, the study discovered that both Eastern and Western views of adolescent identity were reflected through adolescent communication at the juxtaposition of cultural and social changes.


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