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Investigating Hong Kong English

Globalization and Identity


Qi Zhang

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.
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Chapter 1: The Spread of English in the Context of Globalization



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...

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