ethnicity [Asian? or Chinese?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Delee, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Delee Member

    Hello guys, I looked it up the word "Ethnicity" from the Internet and I ended up with twisted head. For instance, lets say someone is Chinese and his ethnicity is Asian? or Chinese?

    Thank You ( If my question has some grammatical mistakes, I would be so glad if you correct me)
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    It's a word that very difficult to define, for all sorts of reasons - I'm not surprised you ended up with a twisted head.

    The WR dictionary is always a good place to start (ethnicity). For more depth you could try the wikipedia (ethnicity).

    I can't answer your (Chinese/Asian) question - sorry.
  3. mplsray Senior Member

    Ethnicity is a word used to describe a person's relationship to those of the same ancestry used in an attempt to avoid problems with the terms race and nationality.

    The term race has been largely discredited from a scientific point of view, but people still identify and are identified with categories which are similar to the previous idea of race. So some could say that a person who is Chinese is ethnically Asian (which would would correspond to the previous racial category "Mongoloid").

    But one could say, alternatively, that a person who could be described as having the nationality "Chinese" (where the Chinese "nation" here references both ancestry and cultural identification) is ethnically Chinese. The problem with the term "nationality" is that it can refer to either ancestry or citizenship.

    There are then, no precise categories under which a person's "ethnicity" may be identified. It depends upon the person using the term, and the reason he feels a need to divide humanity into categories for a particular purpose.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  4. Delee Member

    So you are saying is that I can use "ethnicity" as representing a nationality or ancestry. In other words, in the Chinese guy example, his ethnicity can be both Chinese or Asian?
  5. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    I think what he is saying is that these are tricky terms!
  6. mplsray Senior Member

    I would say "his ethnicity can be either Chinese or Asian," since which one it would be would depend upon the person seeing a need to categorize people according to ethnicity.
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I know a woman who is ethnically Russian but born in Mexico and now a U.S. citizen. :) It's complicated. To me, "ethnically" is closer to "culturally" than "genetically". The man on the Weather Channel who is of Chinese ancestry but has a deep southern (U.S.) accent is probably ethnically American even though his ancestry is Chinese.
  8. WyomingSue

    WyomingSue Senior Member

    Cheyenne, WY
    The concept of ethnicity is relative, as JamesM said. Outside of Asia, a Chinese person might be referred to as "Asian" because most Westerners can't tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mongolian, etc., (at least by sight). If you know the person is from China, you'd probably refer to them as Chinese. But within China, there are different "ethnic" groups.
    Here is a quote from Wikipedia's article on China: "The PRC officially recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.9% of the total population. Large ethnic minorities include the Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uyghur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Tujia (5.75 million), Mongols (5 million), Tibetans (5 million), Buyei (3 million), and Koreans (2 million)."
    So a person who belongs to any of the above "ethnic groups" has Chinese (PRC) nationality, but XX ethnicity. If your father is an Uyghur and your mother a Mongol, then I guess you can invent your own: Uygol? The famous American golfer, Tiger Woods, refers to himself as "Cablinasian," a word he made up to merge his Caucasian, Black, (American) Indian, and Asian ancestry.

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