Decentering, recentering and the Hong Kong English dictionary

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Regional varieties of English, among them 'Hong Kong English', are the central concern of the World Englishes research paradigm. The codification of these varieties has been a recurring theme in World Englishes discourse. In this talk I will consider 'A Dictionary of Hong Kong English' (Cummings and Wolf, 2011), which is intended to contribute to the legitimation of Hong Kong English as a variety. I will consider the dictionary in terms of various contrasts: 'decentering/recentering' (or 'centrifugal/centripetal'), and 'polycentric/pluricentric'. Questions that will be raised include: what are the assumptions about language and communication that underlie the production of a dictionary, and how do these relate to the sociolinguistics of globalization? Is the very existence of the conventional dictionary an anachronism? What possible futures are there for dictionaries of English, given Benson's (2001) observation that what they purport to describe is 'heterogeneous, dynamic and infinitely variable in its regional, social and temporal dimensions'?

Benson, P. (2001). Ethnocentrism and the English Dictionary. London and New York: Routledge.
Cummings, P. and Wolf, H.-G. (2011) A Dictionary of Hong Kong English: Words from the Fragrant
Harbour. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Keywords: globalization, decentering, legitimacy, normativity, variation
Language ideology (1)


ConferenceThe Sociolinguistics of Globalization: (De)centring and (de)standardization
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
OtherThe University of Hong Kong
Internet address


  • globalization
  • decentering
  • legitimacy
  • normativity
  • variation Language ideology


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