Linguistic convergence: Impact of english on Hong Kong cantonese

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13 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents two types of evidence obtained from the Hong Kong Chinese press before and after the handover – lexicosyntactic transference of English words and specific functions assigned to individual letters of the English alphabet – to show that Hong Kong Cantonese has been enriched at practically all linguistic levels, especially lexis and phonology, as a result of sustained contact with English for over a century. Lexicosyntactic transference occurs typically when a VO structure triggered by a transitive English verb is used in mixed code, supplanting thereby the corresponding intransitive verb in Chinese/Cantonese. Individual English letters are often used to signal indefinite reference or serve as quasi-euphemism of “bad language” in Cantonese. The letters B, D, N, Q and V, all charged with specific meanings, are particularly versatile. An English letter is often treated in the same way as a logographic Chinese character in the Hong Kong Chinese press. The syllabary of Hong Kong Cantonese is expanding to accommodate loanwords from English. The “Principle of Economy” is one important motivation, especially at the formative stage of transference. Based on contact-induced changes such as the above, mixed code in Hong Kong has been analyzed as an “incipient koine”. This article argues against the koineization hypothesis, and proposes that linguistic convergence is a more satisfactory account of Hongkong-style code-switching phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-36
Number of pages32
JournalAsian Englishes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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