Multilingual Hong Kong: Languages, Literacies and Identities

  • David C.S. Li

Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 19)

About this book


This volume gives an up-to-date account of the language situation and social context in multilingual Hong Kong. After an in-depth, interpretive analysis of various language contact phenomena, it shows why it is such a tall order for Hongkongers to live up to the Special Administrative Region government’s language policy goalpost, ‘biliteracy and trilingualism’. A detailed contrastive analysis between Cantonese and (a) English, (b) Modern Written Chinese, and (c) Putonghua helps explain the nature of the linguistic and acquisitional challenges involved. Economic forces and sociopolitical realities helped shape the ‘mother tongue education’ or ‘dual MoI streaming’ policy since September 1998. The book provides a critical review of the significant milestones and key policy documents from the early 1990s, and outlines the concerns of stakeholders at the receiving end. Another MoI debate concerns the feasibility and desirability of teaching Chinese in Putonghua (TCP). Based on a critical review of the TCP literature and recent psycholinguistic and neuroscience research, the language-in-education policy implications are discussed, followed by a few recommendations. Hongkongers of South Asian descent saw their life chances curtailed as a result of the post-1997 changes in the language requirements for gaining access to civil service positions and higher education. Based on a study of 15 South Asian undergraduate students’ prior language learning experiences, recommendations are made to help redress that social inequity problem.


Biliteracy trilingualism: Language policy and impact on society Cantonese as an additional language (CAL) Chinese-English language contact Critical language issues in multilingual Hong Kong Ethnic Minority groups in Hong Kong History of contact between Cantonese and English Hong Kong written Chineses (HKWC) Lexical borrowing Minority language rights Multilingualism bilingualism Putonghua national language Salient lexico-syntactic features Teaching English in Hong Kong The Hong Kong language matrix

Authors and affiliations

  • David C.S. Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chinese and Bilingual StudiesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung Hom, KowloonHong Kong

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Education Education (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-44193-1
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-44195-5
  • Series Print ISSN 2213-3208
  • Series Online ISSN 2213-3216
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