The Hong Kong English accent : variation and acceptability

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


Most studies of attitudes towards the Hong Kong English accent have concluded that Hong Kong has a strongly exonormative orientation, with no sign of endonormative stabilisation (see, for example, Luk, 2010). This paper contends that these findings are partly a result of a varieties-based approach to Hong Kong English, which tends to neglect the considerable variation in feature use that exists between speakers. As a complementary perspective, this paper outlines a features-based approach which acknowledges this variation. The results of an accent survey involving 12 local accents and 52 local listeners are presented, and the findings are discussed with reference to variational patterns in the use of features. The results indicate that the phonological features of accents are important determinants of listener responses, and suggest that Hong Kong English accents may be acceptable for pedagogical purposes if they do not contain certain salient features. An apparent correspondence between the acceptability and intelligibility characteristics of features is noted and tentatively explained using the concept of salience. The implications of the study's findings for issues such as variety status, the distinction between variants and errors, and pedagogy, are also considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalHong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Hong Kong English
  • phonological features
  • accent variation
  • accent acceptability
  • accent intelligibility


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