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Language in Hong Kong at Century's End

Martha C. Pennington

Publication Year: 1998

This volume offers a view of the linguistic situation in Hong Kong in the final years of the twentieth century, as it enters the post-colonial era.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Front Matter

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xv

Given the interest in and importance of language in Hong Kong's present and future, this book aims to gather together in one volume a group of research studies describing the language situation in the community and placing it into a larger context. The book contains fourteen articles reporting original research on Hong Kong language, in addition to an overview piece...

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1. Introduction: Perspectives on Language in Hong Kong at Century's End

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pp. 1-40

Such a complex and changing aspect of life as language in Hong Kong, representing a mix of not only English and the majority dialect of Cantonese but other Chinese dialects, or varieties, as well, can best be understood and described by examining it from multiple perspectives. In this introductory...

PART I: LANGUAGE USE PROFILES: The Hong Kong Speech Community: Present, Past, and Future

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2. Charting Multilingualism: Language Censuses and Language Surveys in Hong Kong

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pp. 43-90

Throughout the 1980s, one basic assumption which underlay many commentaries on the local language situation was that Hong Kong was an overwhelmingly monolingual Cantonese-speaking community and that the extent of individual bilingualism in the community was severely limited...

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3. Societal Accommodation to English and Putonghua in Cantonese-Speaking Hong Kong

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pp. 91-111

During the transition from British colonial administration to Chinese sovereignty, uncertainties have emerged in Hong Kong concerning the juxtaposition of the three principal languages used in the community — Cantonese, English, and Putonghua. According to the 1991 census (Hong Kong Government, 1992), Cantonese remains by far the language of the...

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4. The Onset of Bilingualism in Hong Kong: Language Choice in the Home Domain

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pp. 113-141

Until recently, and the publication of such works as the present volume, there was very little information on the choice of different language varieties by various segments of the population in Hong Kong. Up to the mid-1990s, the available studies were mainly limited to the decennial census of population reports, a 'fugitive document' reporting on an early survey of...


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5. Why Two Languages Might Be Better Than One: Motivations of Language Mixing in Hong Kong

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pp. 145-159

As Hong Kong has been a meeting place of Chinese and Western culture since the middle of the nineteenth century, the adoption of English words in the speech and writing of the local population should hardly come as a surprise. Thus, for a long time, there has been interest in the study of the features of bilingualism in this part of the world. Amongst the precursors...

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6. The Plight of the Purist

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pp. 161-190

Since the 1970s, code-mixing in Hong Kong has been a matter of widespread concern for many people, in particular, parents, educators, and policymakers at the Education Department. Strictly speaking, code-mixing would not have received so much public attention had it not been caught in the crossfire between people arguing for and against adopting English...

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7. How Does Cantonese-English Code-Mixing Work?

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pp. 191-216

Nowadays, it is common for Cantonese-English bilinguals in Hong Kong to alternate between English and Cantonese in their speech. Such alternation within a sentence is known as 'code-mixing', as described by Li (this volume) and Luke (this volume). Many people, linguists and laymen alike, have raised many questions about...

Language Use in Specific Groups

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8. Language Choice and Identity: The World of the Hong Kong Indian Adolescent

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pp. 219-242

The use of more than one language to communicate is an area of study that has attracted considerable attention, and many researchers have tried to explain this linguistic phenomenon. Some have approached it from a linguistic perspective, looking into the linguistic constraints imposed on switching and/or mixing language (see, for example, Chan...

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9. Our Future English Teachers: Language Use Among Graduate and Undergraduate TESL Students in Hong Kong

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pp. 243-262

The term 'diglossia' (Ferguson, 1959; Fishman, 1967, 1971) refers to a situation in which two languages or varieties of a language co-exist in one society, each with distinctive functions. In diglossic communities, often as a result of the political domination of one people by another, one language is used in the formal, or 'high', domains of government, education, law...

Discussion Papers

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10. Language and Education in Hong Kong

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pp. 265-276

The chapters dealt with in this discussion paper cover various aspects of language use (and attitudes to language use) in Hong Kong over the past twenty to thirty years. My objective is to relate the sociolinguistic developments the authors describe to major changes and issues within language education in Hong Kong. First, however, I will briefly describe...

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11. Hong Kong Language in Context: The Discourse of Ch'u

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pp. 277-281

Since the time of Mencius it has been understood that the most natural outcome of growing up in a speech community is to learn to speak in the ways of that speech community. Mencius also recognized that attempts to teach one language, the language of Ch'i, when surrounded by a community of speakers of another language, the language of Ch'u...

PART II: VIEWS AND ORIENTATIONS UNDERLYING LANGUAGE USE: Attitudes and Motivations in Language Learning

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12. By Carrot and by Rod: Extrinsic Motivation and English Language Attainment of Hong Kong Tertiary Students

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pp. 285-301

It may not be too surprising to the community of Hong Kong that a tourist guide who had been learning English in China for just three years spoke better English than some university students in Hong Kong who had been studying the language for twelve or fifteen years (Fu, 1987, p. 27). The University of Hong Kong, for instance, has complained about...

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13. Learning English in Hong Kong: Making Connections Between Motivation, Language Use, and Strategy Choice

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pp. 303-328

Learning a second language is for many people an arduous task with too many disappointments and too few tangible rewards. What drives one to pursue mastery of another language? What allows one to persevere through the inevitable setbacks, obstacles, and anxieties? What entices one to seek out opportunities to use the words (and the thoughts wrapped within...

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14. Current Language Attitudes of Hong Kong Chinese Adolescents and Young Adults

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pp. 329-338

Hong Kong is a community where the majority of the population are native Cantonese speakers and where the English language has been maintained, up to the handover, in a position of prominence by colonial authority In research on language attitudes, Chinese students have frequently exhibited ethnocentric responses to Westerners (Bond and Yang, 1982, p. 171). At the...

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15. Acculturation to English by an Ethnic Minority: The Language Attitudes of Indian Adolescents in a Hong Kong International School

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pp. 339-362

Language plays a major role in the development of social identity in general (Eastman, 1985) and ethnic identity in particular (Giles, Bourhis, and Taylor, 1977; Giles and Johnson, 1981; 1987). According to Gudykunst and Schmidt (1987): "Language and ethnic identity are related reciprocally, i.e. language usage influences the formation of ethnic identity, but ethnic identity also...

Perspectives on Medium of Instruction

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16. Medium of Instruction: Policy and Reality at One Hong Kong Tertiary Institution

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pp. 365-389

Hong Kong is generally regarded as a bilingual society In Hong Kong English is used widely for official purposes, but Cantonese is the first language for the vast majority of the population As such, Cantonese is used in most societal contexts (Lord and T'sou, 1985, pp 16-17) Because of British control of the community and because of its role as an international...

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17. Three Languages: One Future

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pp. 391-415

The 1994-1995 academic year saw the introduction of the British government language policy designed to encourage Hong Kong schools to use the mother tongue as the medium of instruction (MOI). The key elements of the policy — streaming students according to their ability to learn in Chinese or English and eliminating mixed-mode teaching — are...

Discussion Papers

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18. Language Policy and Practice: A Problem of Motivation or Priority?

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pp. 419-424

The six chapters of Part II collectively show in what a complex and confused state the public use of foreign language is in Hong Kong. The bottom line that all six implicitly or explicitly address is that Cantonese, the mother tongue, is of limited use in several important contexts, for whatever historical, political, and economic reasons. It is therefore in both private...

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19. Language Attitudes and Language Cognitions: Future Prospects for Hong Kong

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pp. 425-435

Language attitudes are crucial to social linguistic inquiry. A myriad of studies worldwide, as well as in Hong Kong (for example, Hui and Yam, 1987), show that listeners infer traits about speakers from their choice of language, dialect, and paralinguistic features (for reviews, see Bradac, 1990; Ryan, Giles, and Bradac, 1994). Listeners are also implicitly aware that they...


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pp. 437-449

E-ISBN-13: 9789882201958
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622094185

Page Count: 468
Publication Year: 1998

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bilingualism -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Sociolinguistics -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Language and education -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Language policy -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong (China) -- Languages.
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