Investigating Hong Kong English

Globalization and Identity

by Qi Zhang (Author)
©2015 Monographs X, 275 Pages


The status of Hong Kong English has been an increasing concern among the local population. Despite prolific research into attitudes towards language variation within the field of sociolinguistics in general, very few studies have focused on the Hong Kong context. Previous research has demonstrated that native English speakers tend to evaluate Standard English varieties highly as far as status is concerned, while non-standard varieties are evaluated highly in terms of solidarity. There is still, however, a noticeable lack of information about the attitudes of Hong Kong Chinese people to different English varieties and, particularly, about their attitudes to the local non-standard variety.
This richly detailed case study sets out to investigate the attitudes of Hong Kong university students to eight varieties of English speech. It employs a range of direct and indirect techniques of attitude measurement in order to obtain in-depth information about the students’ perceptions. The book also discusses the important pedagogical implications of the choice of linguistic model in English language teaching, both within the Hong Kong population and among other Chinese communities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Chapter 1: The Spread of English in the Context of Globalization
  • Chapter 2: Hong Kong English
  • Chapter 3: Attitudes and Language Attitude Studies
  • Chapter 4: Methodology of the Case Study
  • Chapter 5: Data Analysis: Attitudes towards Varieties of English
  • Chapter 6: Data Analysis: The Effects of Informants’ Socio-Demographic Characteristics on the Formation of Attitudes
  • Chapter 7: Discussion and Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Index
  • Series index




The Spread of English in the Context of Globalization

1.1 Globalization and world Englishes

The process of globalization works in a framework of power and capital distribution, which leads to a redistribution of linguistic and language power and capital taking the form of language competition. For instance, in the context of globalization, English has spread to almost every country in the world − to the point where the number of speakers of English had increased ‘to somewhere between one-and-a-half and two billion’ at the start of the twenty-first century (Jenkins 2009: 2). Around 380 million people speak English as their first language and 253 million people use it as their second, while ‘nearly a third of the world population’ (Graddol 2006: 5) is thought to be currently learning English, with around 350 million of these learners in Asia alone (Hu 2004: 26).

In fact, the spread of English has not stopped since it started to replace Welsh and Irish (or Gaelic) in Wales and Ireland in the fifteenth century (King 2009). In the eighteenth century, English began to expand on a worldwide scale with the British Empire’s conquest of territories all over the world, first in Australia and New Zealand (Kiesling 2009), then in Asia and Africa. The United States’ growing political and economic power encouraged the global use of English after World War II. Economic globalization and new technological developments have further contributed to the international use of English as a lingua franca. The prevalence of English can, for example, be seen in the large number of English users on ← 1 | 2 → the internet. Despite the fact that Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world (BBC 2013), English is still the number one language employed on the internet, with 536 million users by 2010 (26.8 per cent of all internet users). There are 444 million people using Chinese online, accounting for 24.2 per cent of the total number of users (see Internet World Stats 2013). This significant and continuing increase in the number of users of English has led to the evolution of diverse varieties of English, often referred to under the heading of world Englishes (Roberts 2005: 2).

A number of models have been proposed to capture the spread of English and to categorize speakers of English. Examples of these are Strevens’ (1992) world map of English and McArthur’s (1987) wheel model of world English (see also Jenkins 2009: 17–24). The most influential model, however, remains Kachru’s (1985, 1992) three-circle model, which categorizes new varieties of Englishes into the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle (see Figure 1). Kachru’s (1985) three-circle model is also known as the three concentric circles model, which used to be illustrated by three circles presented concentrically (see also Graddol 1997: 10; Tripathi 1998: 56; Yano 2001: 122). However, the most frequently cited version of the model uses three ovals presented vertically, as shown here (see also McArthur 1998; McKenzie 2006; Jenkins 2009: 19). In fact, Omoniyi and Saxena’s three diaspora Englishes, through which they attempt to represent ‘the interface between the sociolinguistics of colonisation and that of globalisation’ (2010: 4), overlap with the three concentric circles proposed by Kachru.

The grouping of regions and countries into a particular circle is determined by a range of factors such as the pattern of acquisition, sources of norms, the status of English as a native, second or foreign language, functional allocation and history of colonization (Bruthiaux 2003: 168–71; see also Bolton 2009: 292). I will now discuss this model in considerable detail in view of the important role it plays in the context of the later case study.


X, 275
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
sociolinguistics solidarity variety
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. X, 275 pp., 6 fig., 24 tables

Biographical notes

Qi Zhang (Author)

Qi Zhang holds a PhD in Linguistics from Newcastle University. In 2011 she joined the School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University as coordinator of their modules on Chinese language and culture. Her main research interests are sociolinguistics (world Englishes, language attitudes, dialectology); translation and interpreting (use of machine translation in language learning, community interpreting); applied linguistics (teaching Chinese as a foreign language); and intercultural communication through language learning.


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290 pages