Strategic use of nouns and pronouns in public discourse: The case of the fine-tuning of the medium of instruction policy in Hong Kong

Victor Ho

Abstract

This paper discusses how the first person pronouns ‘I and ‘We’ and the two proper nouns ‘the Education Bureau [EDB]’ and ‘the Government’ were used strategically by government officials in an attempt to delineate the level of involvement and commitment of the officials themselves, the EDB and the Hong Kong Government in the course of implementing and fine-tuning the medium-of-instruction policy in Hong Kong’s secondary schools. The data comprises the speeches delivered at various formal educational occasions and the documents issued and distributed to various stakeholders of the secondary education in Hong Kong. The clauses having these pronouns and proper nouns as either the Agent or Beneficiary were identified and examined in order to find out: (1) the level of commitment of the officials/administrative entities with reference to the process types used; (2) the level of commitment of these officials/administrative entities with reference to the modality level chosen; (3) the power status of the officials/administrative entities; and (4) the specific role, if any, played by the officials/administrative entities. Systemic functional grammar was the framework being drawn upon in undertaking the analysis.

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