Kongish: The real Hong Kong English?

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


The story of the different names given to English in Hong Kong (including Hong Kong English, Chinglish, and Kongish) reflects several tensions: between exonormative and endonormative orientations, between the top-down descriptions of linguists and the bottom-up language practices of lay users. In this talk I will take an additional perspective by arguing that these tensions reflect an epochal and unfinished shift from ‘modernist’ to ‘late modern’ views of language. To make this point I briefly review some recent positions on Hong Kong English, characterising identifications and codifications of it as representing fundamentally modernist preoccupations. I then introduce the phenomenon of Kongish, a form of online communication involving creative combinations of Cantonese and English. It is certainly possible to argue that Kongish – unashamed of its hybridity, unconcerned with intelligibility, rooted in local identity and local linguistic practice, and free of attempts by linguists to codify its protean nature –is a more democratic and ultimately more representative counterpart of Hong Kong English. But to make claims for greater representativeness would simply be a continuation of modernist conceptualisations of ‘more’ and ‘better’ languages. In this talk I wish to rest in the tension between modernism and late modernity, between fixity and fluidity, observing the implications not only for world Englishes and the study of language in Hong Kong, but also for language studies more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019
Event24th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes - University of Limerick, Ireland, Ireland
Duration: 20 Jun 201922 Jun 2019


Conference24th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes
Abbreviated titleIAWE2019
Internet address


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