The evolution of the English-language speech community in Hong Kong
This article traces the evolution of the English-language speech community in Hong Kong since the early 1840s. Inspired by Schneider’s (2007) innovative “Dynamic Model”, the article examines textual and statistical data derived from a range of hitherto unexploited archival sources, including a historical corpus of English-language newspapers, confidential Colonial Office correspondence, and government records. Changes in the size and composition of the English-language speech community are tracked through a diachronic analysis of government censuses, school enrolments, lists of jurors, and letters to the press. The results of this analysis support Schneider’s contention that the 1960s marked an important turning point in Hong Kong’s linguistic history in that it presaged a substantial, education-driven increase in the numbers and proportion of English users in the territory. Despite the significant expansion of the English-using community in the past four decades, the dominant theme of public discourse about English has been that of “declining standards”. While the existence of a “complaint tradition” accords with the predictions of the Dynamic Model, it is perhaps not widely known that this tradition is a long-standing one. The present article traces this tradition back to the era of the Opium Wars.
Keywords: Dynamic Model, post-colonial English, Hong Kong, language contact, complaint tradition, Chinese, speech community, Cantonese
Published online: 25 September 2009
Cited by 14 other publications
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