Language use, and language policy and planning in Hong Kong

Yuk Kang Poon

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapter


This monograph provides an overview of the language situayears from a small fishing port to an international financial centre which forms part of a financial network hailed by Time Magazine as Ny.Lon.Kong (i.e. New York-London-Hong Kong). Hong Kong has gone through changes of sovereignty twice, once in 1842 as a Chinese territory ceded to Britain after the first Opium War, and a second time in 1997 as a British colony returned to China. It is a micro polity with no natural resources except its deep harbour. Economically, Hong Kong has gradually developed from a fishing port when British settlement began in 1841, to an entrepot during 1945-1950s, to a manufacturing hub during 1960-1970s, to an international financial centre since the 1980s. The historical, political and economic development has had a great impact on the language situation in Hong Kong. Its language community started with two separate monolingual groups: one consisting of local Chinese speaking Cantonese and other Chinese dialects, and the other composed of British colonists speaking English. Because of language spread and language shift as a result of political, economic and social changes, the monolingual group of Chinese speakers has become trilingual, speaking Cantonese, English and Putonghua, whereas the monolingual group of English speakers has expanded to include native speakers of such other English varieties as American English, Australian English, Canadian English, Indian English and Singaporean English. In addition, there is a large group of minorities composed of bilingual speakers of English and a south Asian language. Although the development of language use is a natural process, it can be influenced by the government's language policy and planning. In 1997 there was a major political change, and Hong Kong, a capitalist city that practised a free economy for 155 years, was handed back to a socialist regime in China and now functions as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC) under the 'One Country Two Systems' policy. Hong Kong's prospects for a changing language situation depend on its political and economic development as well as PRC's policy. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage planning in the Asia Pacific
Subtitle of host publicationHong Kong, Timor Leste and Sri Lanka
Number of pages66
ISBN (Print)9780415618519
Publication statusPublished - 2011

User-Defined Keywords

  • Biliteracy
  • Code-mixing
  • Hong kong
  • Hong kong cantonese
  • Hong kong english
  • Hong kong identity
  • Language policy
  • Language use
  • Trilingualism


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