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Language in Hong Kong at Century's End

Language in Hong Kong at Century's End

Edited by Martha C. Pennington
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 468
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  • Book Info
    Language in Hong Kong at Century's End
    Book Description:

    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. In the chapters of this book, scholars from Hong Kong and around the world present a contemporary profile of Chinese, English, and other languages in dynamic interaction in this major international economic centre. Authors survey usage of different languages and attitudes towards them among students, teachers, and the general population based on census data, newpapers, language diaries, interviews, and questionnaires. They address issues of code-mixing, the shift from English-medium to Chinese-medium education, the place of Putonghua in the local language mix, and the language of minority groups such as Hong Kong Indians.This wide-ranging group of original studies provides a social and historical perspective from which to consider developments in language among the past, present, and future populations of Hong Kong.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-195-8
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: Perspectives on Language in Hong Kong at Century’s End
    (pp. 3-40)
    Martha C. Pennington

    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 chapter, a number of different frameworks that have previously been applied to the study of bilingualism, multilingualism, or language more generally are reviewed in terms of their applicability to the Hong Kong case, with reference to the chapters of this book. These are then supplemented by several new forms of description...


    • The Hong Kong Speech Community:: Present, Past, and Future

      • 2 Charting Multilingualism: Language Censuses and Language Surveys in Hong Kong
        (pp. 43-90)
        John Bacon-Shone and Kingsley Bolton

        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 (see Lord and Tʹsou, 1985; Luke and Richards, 1982; Quirk, 1986). To some extent, the belief that Hong Kong is essentially a monoethnic, monolingual community has persisted into the 1990s. For example, So (1992) expresses this widely-held view when he states, almost axiomatically, that ʺHong Kong is essentially a monolingual Cantonese-speaking society where English is used in only a restricted number of...

      • 3 Societal Accommodation to English and Putonghua in Cantonese-Speaking Hong Kong
        (pp. 91-112)
        Herbert D. Pierson

        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 majority, spoken by nearly 96 percent of the population, a statistic indicative of the inexorable vitality of Cantonese (the Yue or Yü dialect). The tenacity of Cantonese persists: (1) after almost 150 years of uninterrupted British colonial rule; (2) in spite of the development of a secondary and tertiary educational...

      • 4 The Onset of Bilingualism in Hong Kong: Language Choice in the Home Domain
        (pp. 113-142)
        Evangelos A. Afendras

        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 ʹfugitive documentʹ reporting on an early survey of English language use (Wescott, 1977), and mini-surveys conducted by linguists in their effort to explore the language use context of their subjects while focusing on other issues, especially education (for example, Bauer, 1984; Gibbons, 1987; Pennington, Balla, Detaramani, Poon, and Tarn,...

    • Code-Mixing

      • 5 Why Two Languages Might Be Better Than One: Motivations of Language Mixing in Hong Kong
        (pp. 145-160)
        Kang-Kwong Luke

        Language mixing in Hong Kong typically involves the insertion of isolated English lexical items, usually substantives but not necessarily so, into an essentially Cantonese syntactic frame consisting of mostly Cantonese words. Some common examples include:

        (1) ngo5 go3 warrant soeng6min6 go3 date hai6 luk6baat3 nin4 aa3

        my CL warrant on CL date is sixty-eight year PRT¹

        ʹThe date on my warrant is (19)68.ʹ

        (2) m4goi1 check check hoi1 gei2dim2

        please check check depart what time

        ʹCan you tell me the departure time, please?ʹ

        (3) co5 van hoei3 laa1

        sit van go PRT

        ʹTake a van to go there.ʹ

        (4) call...

      • 6 The Plight of the Purist
        (pp. 161-190)
        David C. S. Li

        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 as the medium of instruction in secondary schools. One interpretation of the logical connection between the two issues is epitomized by the current official stance upheld by the Education Department, which views code-mixing as the culprit for the perceived decline in English and Chinese standards of...

      • 7 How Does Cantonese-English Code-Mixing Work?
        (pp. 191-216)
        Brian Chan Hok-shing

        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 ʹcode-mixingʹ, as described by Li (this volume) and Luke (this volume). Many people, linguists and laymen alike, have raised many questions about code-mixing, such as:

        Why do people code-mix?

        What are the functions of code-mixing in daily communication?

        Is code-mixing an additional language alongside the participating languages?

        Who are the code-mixers?

        Do code-mixers need to learn code-mixing consciously, as speakers do in learning a second language?

        Do they code-mix differently as their proficiency...

    • Language Use in Specific Groups

      • 8 Language Choice and Identity: The World of the Hong Kong Indian Adolescent
        (pp. 219-242)
        Jasbir Pannu

        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, this volume, and Li, this volume), while others have found the social and psychological functions of dual language or multi-language use of interest (see, for example, Fishman, 1972a, 1972b; Luke, this volume; Scotton, 1983, 1988). Most of these studies have been carried out on bilingual communities, and researchers...

      • 9 Our Future English Teachers: Language Use Among Graduate and Undergraduate TESL Students in Hong Kong
        (pp. 243-262)
        Martha C. Pennington and John Balla

        The term ʹdiglossiaʹ (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 ʹhighʹ, domains of government, education, law, and business, while the other is generally used in the informal, or ʹlowʹ, domains of home, family, and friendship. The former can be seen as domains where status and hierarchy are reinforced, while the latter are domains where solidarity and equality...

    • Discussion Papers

      • 10 Language and Education in Hong Kong
        (pp. 265-276)
        Robert Keith Johnson

        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 those developments.

        Three major changes occurred in the Hong Kong education system between the 1950s and the 1990s: expansion, realignment of the medium of instruction, and the introduction of mixed-mode teaching into English medium instruction.

        1. Expansion: The system moved rapidly during the 1960s...

      • 11 Hong Kong Language in Context: The Discourse of Ch'u
        (pp. 277-282)
        Ron Scollon

        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 (or a number of other languages), is bound to be a frustrating experience at best.

        Hong Kong is a community in which English and Standard Written Chinese stand as languages of Ch'i in a community of Ch'u speakers who, as...


    • Attitudes and Motivations in Language Learning

      • 12 By Carrot and by Rod: Extrinsic Motivation and English Language Attainment of Hong Kong Tertiary Students
        (pp. 285-302)
        Angel Lin and Champa Detaramani

        In a quiet neighbourhood there lived an old man who had always enjoyed his quiet life until one Sunday some noisy kids came to play in front of his house. The old man went out to them and said, ʹKids, I really enjoyed watching you play here. Why donʹt you come every Sunday to liven up my place?ʹ He then gave them each a dollar as reward for playing and making noise. The next Sunday the boys came again to play and to make noise. This time the old man gave them fifty cents each as reward. The following Sunday,...

      • 13 Learning English in Hong Kong: Making Connections Between Motivation, Language Use, and Strategy Choice
        (pp. 303-328)
        Stephen Richards

        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 them) of an alien culture? These questions are relevant to second language learning in Hong Kong, a society in which fluency in English is highly desired, yet too rarely attained. English language learning is given prominence in the education system, and local residents...

      • 14 Current Language Attitudes of Hong Kong Chinese Adolescents and Young Adults
        (pp. 329-338)
        Maria Axler, Anson Yang and Trudy Stevens

        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 same time, Hong Kong adolescents and young adults have a strong desire to learn English because they believe that being able to use English will help them to find lucrative employment in the future or because English is necessary for tertiary education (Lin,...

      • 15 Acculturation to English by an Ethnic Minority: The Language Attitudes of Indian Adolescents in a Hong Kong International School
        (pp. 339-362)
        Mrudula Patri and Martha C. Pennington

        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): ʺLanguage and ethnic identity are related reciprocally, i.e. language usage influences the formation of ethnic identity, but ethnic identity also influences language attitudes and language usageʺ (p. 157). In this chapter, the issues of social and ethnic identity are investigated in relation to language in one of Hong Kongʹs major minority communities, that of ethnic Indians. The focus is on a group of adolescents...

    • Perspectives on Medium of Instruction

      • 16 Medium of Instruction: Policy and Reality at One Hong Kong Tertiary Institution
        (pp. 365-390)
        Steve Walters and John Balla

        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 Tʹsou, 1985, pp 16–17) Because of British control of the community and because of its role as an international language, English is used widely in business and government-related, activities and its use is encouraged throughout the education system to ensure that Hong Kong retains its place in world trade. In addition, tertiary institutions in Hong Kong,...

      • 17 Three Languages: One Future
        (pp. 391-416)
        Stephen Evans, Rodney Jones, Ruru S. Rusmin and Cheung Oi Ling

        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 based on proposals originally put forward by the Education Commission in its Report Number 4 (ECR4, 1990). At the time of their publication, the Education Commissionʹs MOI proposals were criticized in the community on the grounds that an English-medium education would be reserved for...

    • Discussion Papers

      • 18 Language Policy and Practice: A Problem of Motivation or Priority?
        (pp. 419-424)
        John Biggs

        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 and public interests to put policies in place that see to it that those who have a need for the appropriate non-Cantonese language have access to learning it. Now comes the hard part.

        Students want to know English...

      • 19 Language Attitudes and Language Cognitions: Future Prospects for Hong Kong
        (pp. 425-436)
        Howard Giles

        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 too would be the recipient of such reactions if they spoke in the manners so evaluated. Hence, social meanings associated with language varieties — and the speakers of them — can mediate how people manage their communications in various social situations: if,...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 437-450)