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Speaking American: A History of English in the United States

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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: Lexical traps in Hong Kong English
Author: Julie M. Groves
Author: Hei Tao Chan
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Despite a large and growing literature on Hong Kong English (HKE), few studies have been conducted on its emerging language features, particularly its grammar or vocabulary. According to Gisborne (2009), studies on HKE to date have focused on language attitudes, code-switching, learner errors, and the local accent. A quick review of the research on vocabulary reveals that even those studies with a specific lexical focus have tended to be fairly limited in scope, focusing on borrowing, politicized expressions and localized vocabulary. Additionally, by their nature, these studies have tended to only cover vocabulary items that are unique and obviously have a different meaning in the local setting. In particular, there is a noticeable dearth of in-depth studies on semantic shift, in particular extensions or adaptations of meaning for simple words or phrases which are taken for granted as being at the common core of English varieties throughout the world. This kind of usage is more likely to cause comprehension difficulties than the more-often studied borrowings or coinages, simply because it might not be apparent to either a native speaker or a Hong Kong speaker that there is a difference in meaning when it comes to the Hong Kong terms used, and therefore there is a greater potential for misunderstanding.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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