The discourse of "falling standards" of English in Hong Kong

Andrew SEWELL*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


The phenomenon of the ‘complaint tradition’, expressing the belief that language standards are deteriorating in some way, has had a long and vibrant existence in discussions of English in Hong Kong. The contribution of a Cultural Linguistics perspective here highlights the nature and significance of the cultural conceptualisations of language, for example, those that are revealed by the use of metaphor. The article begins with an overview of the discourse in Hong Kong, based on a corpus of media articles. The discourse structure and content of the articles, including their metaphorical aspects, are then analysed in more detail. To help understand the persistence of the discourse I draw on the insight that metaphors constitute ‘mini-narratives’ which construct identities and identity boundaries. The discussion considers how the prevailing conceptualisations of English—some general, and others more culturally specific—serve to reproduce dominant, standardising views and inhibit the acceptance of local variation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Englishes
Early online date11 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2024

Bibliographical note

The author would like to thank Hans-Georg Wolf, Denisa Latić and Arne Peters for their comments on an earlier version of this article, and for their hospitality during a visit to the University of Potsdam in October 2022, when I presented some of the ideas contained in it during a seminar.

Publisher Copyright: © 2024 The Authors. World Englishes published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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