Rhetorical Analysis of "Mother Tongue" by Amy Tan

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About this sample


Words: 636 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 636|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Anecdotes: A Window into Cultural Identity
  2. Pathos: Evoking Emotional Responses
  3. Implications of Linguistic Diversity
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

In Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue," she explores the perception and treatment of different languages in society, particularly the English language. Tan reflects on her experiences growing up as a child of Chinese immigrants in America and the challenges she faced due to her mother's limited English. Through her use of rhetorical strategies such as anecdotes, appeals to pathos, and contrasting language, Tan effectively conveys the impact of language on identity and the need for a more inclusive understanding of linguistic diversity.

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Anecdotes: A Window into Cultural Identity

Tan begins her essay by sharing personal anecdotes about her mother's English and its effect on her perception of her mother's intelligence. She recalls how people would often dismiss her mother's ideas or treat her as inferior because of her limited English. This use of personal anecdotes not only engages the reader but also establishes her credibility as a witness to the issue at hand. By recounting these experiences, Tan highlights the prejudice and discrimination faced by individuals with limited English proficiency, emphasizing the need for a more inclusive and empathetic society.

Moreover, Tan's use of anecdotes also serves to highlight the cultural and emotional significance of language. She describes how her mother's "broken" English is a reflection of her Chinese heritage and the struggles she faced as an immigrant. This connection between language and cultural identity adds depth and complexity to Tan's argument, making it more relatable and compelling to readers.

Pathos: Evoking Emotional Responses

Tan skillfully employs pathos throughout her essay to evoke emotional responses from her readers. By sharing personal stories and experiences, she creates a sense of empathy and understanding towards the challenges faced by individuals with limited English proficiency. For instance, she describes how her mother's language barrier affected their communication and strained their relationship, evoking a sense of sadness and frustration.

Additionally, Tan's use of contrasting language further enhances the emotional impact of her argument. She juxtaposes her mother's "broken" English with her own proficient English to highlight the stark differences in perception and treatment. This contrast elicits feelings of sympathy towards individuals who struggle with English, while also challenging the societal norms and biases that associate language proficiency with intelligence or worth.

Implications of Linguistic Diversity

Tan's essay also delves into the broader implications of linguistic diversity in society. She argues that language should not be seen as a barrier, but rather as a reflection of one's unique cultural background. Through her personal experiences, she emphasizes the importance of embracing and celebrating linguistic diversity to foster a more inclusive society.

Tan's essay raises questions about the power dynamics at play in language usage and challenges the dominant perception that English proficiency is the only measure of intelligence or capability. She suggests that by valuing and accommodating different languages, we can create a more equitable and understanding society that recognizes the contributions and experiences of individuals from diverse linguistic backgrounds.


Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" effectively utilizes rhetorical strategies to convey the impact of language on identity and advocate for a more inclusive understanding of linguistic diversity. Through her use of personal anecdotes, appeals to pathos, and contrasting language, Tan engages the reader and evokes emotional responses, making her argument more compelling.

By exploring the implications of linguistic diversity, Tan challenges societal norms and biases, highlighting the need for a more equitable and empathetic society that values and celebrates different languages. In doing so, she encourages readers to reconsider their own assumptions and prejudices towards individuals with limited English proficiency.

In conclusion, "Mother Tongue" serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of language in shaping our identities and the need for a more inclusive and accepting society. Tan's essay urges us to recognize the value of linguistic diversity and to embrace the richness that comes from understanding and appreciating different languages and cultures.

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Tan, Amy. "Mother Tongue." The Threepenny Review, no. 43, 1990, pp. 11-20.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Rhetorical Analysis of “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
“Rhetorical Analysis of “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
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