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Abstract

This paper examines the Hong Kong population’s attitude towards Cantonese, Putonghua and English after the 1997 handover to explain how a local identity is being constructed through Cantonese. Interviews were conducted by linguists in Hong Kong researching Cantonese and Mainland Chinese immigrant students’ attitudes towards these three languages. The students’ responses suggest that the vernacular language, Cantonese, is a central component of Hong Kong culture and that the people of Hong Kong use Cantonese language resources to construct a localist identity that is unique from their recently acquired ‘motherland,’ the People’s Republic of China. However, the construction of this identity also affects respectively their attitudes towards English as a globally superior and Putonghua as a culturally inferior language. The attitudes of Hong Kong locals to these three languages facilitate the construction of a unique identity that is reaffirmed through Cantonese slogans and songs in the 2019 protests against the extradition bill and universal suffrage. By affirming a local Hong Kong identity in Cantonese and English, the people of Hong Kong are advocating for their rights as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, namely universal suffrage, voicing opposition to the proposed extradition bill and police brutality.

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