||This study sets out to identify the main variant features of the written interlanguage (IL) of Hong Kong students of English (HKIL) and to determine sociological and linguistic factors that might help account for the persistence of these features. It describes computational and manual analyses of an electronic corpus of HK students’ texts mainly in comparison to a ‘control’ corpus of UK students’ Standard English (SE) texts. Three aspects of HKIL are investigated, based on data revealed by part-of-speech (POS) tagging: - an identification of the distributional profile of the IL (based on POS categories) – i.e. many of the lexicogrammatical features which can be shown to be characteristic of this inter-language; - those features of SE (determined by POS tagging) that appear to present the greatest ‘learnability’ and production problems for HK learners; and - characteristic discoursal features of HKIL (particularly epistemic modality) identified by word class. The findings of these empirical analyses question second language acquisition (SLA) theories that make strong generalised claims for linguistic constraints on L2 acquisition; for example, that there is a ‘universal and natural order of acquisition’ independent of L1 and instruction. The IL data suggest instead that these learners are, to a substantial degree, encouraged in the application of compensatory production strategies, often at the expense of acquiring grammatical and communicative competence. These compensatory strategies appear to be one factor hampering the learners’ effective communication of representative and propositional information in English. Moreover, several characteristic interlanguage features appear to be institutionally induced, partly because HK students are misinformed about the properties of, and distinctions between, spoken and written English. The linguistic contexts of ungrammaticality and reduced expression in the L2, including the constrained manner in which these learners are taught to structure information, make clear the need for pedagogy to go beyond error correction in helping learners articulate and reformulate their L2 texts.