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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 2: Hong Kong English



Hong Kong English

The previous chapter discussed Kachru’s (1992) three-circle model of English in the era of globalization and attempted to contextualize the early English language contact in Hong Kong and the emergence of Hong Kong English (HKE). In this chapter, I will situate HKE within this model and provide a brief introduction to the subsequent development of English in Hong Kong, with particular emphasis on the use of English in the domain of education, in order to provide a sketch of the complexity and consistently changing sociolinguistic life of HKE. In the last section, I shall give an overview of HKE phonology with reference to the speech features demonstrated in the recordings used in the current study. I shall also provide evidence for classifying HKE into two separate varieties: the educated and broad Hong Kong accents.

2.1 Hong Kong English post-1997

‘The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’ contains the basic policies of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) regarding Hong Kong that were agreed between the Chinese and British Governments on 19 December 1984, when the Sino–British Joint Declaration was signed. It is based on the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and in it the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (2007) guaranteed that Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and lifestyle would remain unchanged for fifty years. Although the Basic Law promised that nothing would change, two years before the handover, the government of...

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