Skip to main content

Prof. Lian-Hee Wee

Ph.D. (Rutgers Univ.), B.A. (Honours, National Univ. of Singapore)

Professor, Department of English Language and Literature

Funding:

  • GRF HKD$386,313.00

Introduction

  • This project looks into how the typical speaker of English in Hong Kong organizes the consonants and vowels within a syllable. Because the syllable is a very basic unit of language, the study of its internal structure is challenging. The project probes into the speakers’ subconscious organization of sounds by engaging them in play through asking them to articulate words in reverse order. This unnatural process reveals the most natural break-points in how they organize sounds. 
  • The project reveals that although there variations across individuals, there are also many points of corroboration across them. The evidence converges on a syllable structure that is neither English nor Cantonese. The HK English syllable is nearly as complex as the those of the UK/US varieties in some aspects. It is revealed also that when dealing with fricative sounds like [s] and [f], the HK English speaker might even try to process them as if they were a single syllable on their own.
  • It is important to realize that these patterns are not mistakes given their systematicity. They are different from the UK/US variety even though in many cases, the surface pronunciation would be nearly identical. What is important here is the realization of an emergent language that belongs uniquely to Hongkongers even if that language has non-local sources. The English of Hong Kong is the language that reflects all the converging heritage that form the local language and cultural landscape.