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English Linguistics

Hong Kong English

From English in Hong Kong to Hong Kong English: A diachronic perspective on the emergence of a post-colonial variety in its socio-political context

The status of Hong Kong English (HKE) as a distinct variety has been much debated (cf. Evans, 2015, pp. 391-394)  since the Japanese occupation resulted in a discontinuity in the settler and indigenous strands, and since, most importantly, Hong Kong has never gained independence. If the nativisation phase set in in the 1960s, as Schneider (2007, p. 136)  suggests, the process was impeded by the Sino-British declaration in 1984 and the subsequent handover to China in 1997. These developments led to both the emigration of Hong Kong residents and an increasing influx of mainland Chinese which resulted in a large-scale reorganisation of the demographic structure.

Accordingly, the common practice of tracing structural nativisation in post-colonial varieties by analysing synchronic data seems even more problematic for Hong Kong English than for other varieties. This project aims at providing empirical evidence for the development of Hong Kong English by, on the one hand, collecting long-called for diachronic data (see sub-project DC-HKE) as a basis for linguistic analysis (see sub-project  Modality), and, on the other hand, by following up on Evans’ approach of taking the other parameters of Schneider’s model into account to gain a better understanding of changes in Hong Kong English in its socio-historical context. Here we focus on identity constructions in public and private discourse (see sub-project Identity). A further interest of this research group is to analyse the English which came to the Colony and how different genres have developed the post-colonial setting in contrast to British English. In this way we can differentiate between features that are actual innovations and features that can be traced to earlier uses in British English or genre-specific usages (see sub-project Business Correspondence).


Prof. Dr. Carolin Biewer    
Dr. Ninja Schulz
Lisa Lehnen


See sub-projects