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Cantonese particles in Hong Kong students’ English e-mails

Authors James, Gregory C.A. HKUST affiliated (currently or previously)
Issue Date 2001
Source English today , v.17, (3), 2001, p. 9-16
Summary With the popularisation of the Internet, the use of e-mails and computer-based chats (CBCs) has increased dramatically among university students. An interesting feature of such communication, however, is that a written medium is treated like speech (cf. Maynor, 1994). Conversations turn into notes where grammatical accuracy and conventional formalities take a backseat to instant communication. In the case of on-campus CBCs, informality and a certain disregard of the conventions of standard English are all the more manifest. It is commonly believed in Hong Kong that this general freedom to write ‘bad English’ has encouraged the habit of randomly incorporating Cantonese words into English e-mails. Yet an examination of students’ e-mails and icq (‘I Seek You’) communications reveals that far from ‘polluting’ their English by substituting Cantonese words haphazardly for English ones, or by applying Cantonese structures to their English writing, students tend to incorporate certain kinds of Cantonese words systematically into their texts for specific identifiable purposes.
Rights © Cambridge University Press 2001. This paper was published in English Today, v. 17, no. 3, 2001, p. 9-16 and is reprinted with permission.
Language English
Format Article
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