The objective of this report is, by gathering first-hand data and through personal communication with informants, to identify phonological variation of Hong Kong English speakers in comparison to the Received Pronunciation (RP) of British English, an identifiable standard English.
RP is selected as it is a standard form of British English pronunciation, often regarded as ‘a valuable standard’ for linguistic study (David Crystal, 1995:365) or mentioned as a ‘reference variety’ (Melchers and Shaw, 2003:47),to which other varieties of English are compared, though it is only used by limited percentage of population(approximately 3%) around the world. Moreover, we are more familiar with British English, which English teaching in China is based on.
Hong Kong English (HKE) is selected is due to its special standing within the outer circle- Crystal(1995:109) identifies HKE as being in the ‘outer circle’ of Kachru’s three-circle model, however, at the same time, the status of it is closer to a foreign language (Melchers and Shaw, 2003:169). It would be interesting to identify how it develops its own unique variation of English from RP, a variety used by Hong Kong’s former colony country, Britain. Moreover, HKE has an influence on Pearl River Delta, which is one of the most important economic areas in China, by the media such as television.
HK is also a significant international harbor city. Hence, its variety of English has drawn people’s attention. Taking into account that it is not as unique as other varieties of English in Asian, limited studies have been done on it. As is stated by Tony (World Englishes, 2000:2), the earlier studies do not provide a deep insight into the phonological variation and it is not until the investigation done by Peter and Settler that the uniqueness of Hong Kong English in terms of its phonology is recognized.
The following are the most salient characteristics which are identified by researchers: Pronouncing Interdental-fricative/? / as labio-dental fricative /f/: Nathan(Nafan) Pronouncing voiced interdental-fricative / i?? / as alveolar plosive /d/: this(dis), clothe( cloth) onouncing voiced palato-alveolar /? / as voiceless palato-alveolar /s/: occasion( occacion) No distinction between long vowels and short vowels: key ( ki) Pronouncing voiced alveolar fricative /z/ as voiceless alveolar fricative/s/: eraser (eracer) Reduce final consonant clusters: pet (pe), meet (mee)* /v/ and /w/ generally neutralized to /w/: wine and vine are both ‘wine’.
The focus of this study is on the first four characteristics, which, after the research and personal contact with Hong Kong English speakers, are believed to be the most noticeable ones. Methodology In order to collect data to prove that there is an occurrence of Hong Kong English accent, researchers design several questions which are related to personal information to enquire our informants. They are expected to give full answers, regardless of its redundancy.
Since researchers have been long familiarized with HKE (both of us had been living next to Hong Kong), researchers presume that certain displayed features in the interviews are the most noticeable ones but we recognized that we may have perception. In other words, there is a manipulation of answers. For illustration, we questioned the participants about the four campuses which are owned by Griffith University. The expected answer would be Nathan, Mount Gravatt, Logan and Gold Coast (Here the reduced final consonant clusters and pronouncing Interdental-fricative/?/ as labio-dental fricative /f/ phenomenon are expected to occur).
Researchers admit that these questions may not cover all the features of or provide enough evidence for HKE. Nevertheless, they can serve as a means with which we can confirm these features of HKE. After identifying form the academic sources such as the book World Englishes: An Introduction and the journal World Englishes, it is found that researchers’ presumption are valid. What’s more, researchers transcribe from everyday conversation with participants phonetically as a solution to inadequate data.
Four native speakers from Hong Kong are interviewed and one internet source, a clip from one of the shows of Hong Kong TakeOut Comedy Club, is applied for this study. Their mother-tongue and language used for daily communication in Hong Kong is Cantonese. As is shown in the table, all of the participants (excluding participant 5) are of similar age, born and bred in Hong Kong, had a similar education before they came to Australia, and are currently attending Griffith University.