Cantonese Language and the Imagination of the Hongkonger Community

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Cantonese Language and the Imagination of the Hongkonger Community
Stream: Language
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Clement Tsz Ming Tong, University of British Columbia, Canada (organizer, presenter)
Shin Kataoka, Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)
Winnie Yee, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)
Alena Pavlova, Moscow City University, Russia (presenter)
Fiona Hui, New York University, United States (chair)


The Cantonese language has been instrumental and monumental in the shaping and articulating of the imagined community of Hongkongers. Whether as a genre of writing, an identity marker, a language of translation, or a protest expression, this lingua franca of the people of Hong Kong weaves an invisible thread that binds this multiethnic and multicultural metropolis together, helping to form and project their collective identity to the outside world.

In this panel, Shin Kataoka will examine the uniqueness of the Cantonese-sounding written Chinese in Hong Kong from a linguistic point of view, and how it is closely related to the self-identification of the Hongkongers. Winnie Yee argues that nature writing can be used to renew our understanding of Hong Kong’s postcolonical identity, through a look at the environment, landscape, and Cantonese language that constitute the habitual and “ecotopian” side of Hong Kong. Clement Tong will explore the differences in which the Cantonese language was used as a protest language in the leftist unrests in 1967, and the recent anti-extradition bill protests in 2019, pondering how far the language has evolved to become an integral part of the Hongkonger identity. Finally, Alena Pavlova will survey the concept and imagery of the Hongkonger community through a foreign lens – that of Russian students learning Mandarin and about the Chinese culture. She will also examine how this concept influences the interest of Russian students towards learning the Cantonese language.