Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Tracking changes in language and identity in Hong Kong: Evidence from Canto-pop

Brian, H-S. Chan.

This paper presents the findings of a survey of Canto-pop from 1980 to 2003. The forms and functions of English elements, which are supposed to be a marked feature, are examined. The longitudinal data show that there have been significant changes in both the forms and functions of these English elements. In brief, there have been more English elements which assume a greater presence in the form of sentences and paragraphs, and in terms of function these elements are associated with the expression of the "inner self" (e.g. feeling, emotions and desires, etc.) of the voices. This defies the status and use of English in Hong Kong, which has remained a language for "outgroup" communication, in other words, a "they code" in Gumperz' famous dichotomy (1982). Nonetheless, this paper argues that these changes are in fact concomitant with the emergence of a "Hongkonger" identity, changes in language attitudes and the pragmatic function of code-switching


Brian, H-S. Chan  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Lecturer in English
Department of English
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Brian Chan is Lecturer in the Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has taught English and linguistics in The City University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His main research interests are bilingualism and code-switching.

  • Canto-pop
  • code-switching
  • "Hongkonger" identity
  • language attitude
  • pragmatics

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)