Deutsch Intern
English Linguistics

Identity (re)constructions in Hong Kong

Identity (re)constructions in Hong Kong – A diachronic approach to the use of ethnonyms in public and private discourse

According to Evans (2014; 2015)  the development and status of a new variety can (and should) not only be described by analysing LINGUISTIC FEATURES, but also by including the other parameters of Schneider’s dynamic model (2003, 2007).  He investigated, for instance, the extent of bilingualism by scrutinising jury lists (2014, pp. 583–585), thus finding evidence for changes in the SOCIOLINGUISTIC CONDITIONS in the 1970s. Following up on this, this project takes a diachronic approach to the parameter IDENTITY (RE)CONSTRUCTION.  By using the data collected for the Diachronic Corpus of Hong Kong English (DC-HKE), we investigate how different ethnonyms denoting in- and out-groups, such as Hongkonger and mainlander, are used in public and private discourse. Major research questions include:

  • Does the group of people denoted by the different ethnonyms change over time?
  • How do in-group and out-group terms develop in frequency?
  • In how far do the collocations and connotations of the terms indicate changing attitudes towards the groups?
  • Are there shifts in discourse topics connected to these terms?
  • In how far can changes in reference, frequency, collocations and connotations, and discourse topics be correlated with historical events and previous assumptions about the development of Hong Kong English?

By uncovering various periods of identity reconstructions, this approach contributes to the understanding of the evolution and dynamics of linguistic changes in Hong Kong English.


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


Conference talks

Schulz, N., Biewer, C., & Lehnen, L. “Tracing identity (re)constructions in Hong Kong from 1903-1999.” 40th Annual Conference of the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English (ICAME 40), University of Neuchâtel, June 1-5, 2019.

Guest lectures

Biewer, C. “Modalising Expressions and Ethnonyms in Hong Kong English: Tracing Diachronic Changes from 1928 to 2018 (from 1903 to 1999).” University of Zurich (UZH), April 10, 2019.