Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
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“Standard language” status is a relative construct defined by a variety of attributes rather than by any single criteria. This paper uses the taxonomy of standard language attributes presented in Downes 1998 as a framework for examining the degree to which written Cantonese, particularly in Hong Kong, has developed attributes of a standard language. In particular, it is argued that written Cantonese has gained a degree of autonomy from Standard Written Chinese, that the Cantonese speech community has clear usage norms regarding how spoken Cantonese words should be represented in writing, that written Cantonese is functionally elaborated in the sense that users have little difficulty with lack of vocabulary for technical or academic concepts, that written Cantonese plays a growing social role in Hong Kong, and that its level of prestige is increasing. The paper concludes that while written Cantonese does not have all the attributes associated with standard languages, it has developed a significant number of these attributes to a significant degree, and that the growing role of written Cantonese is an important indicator of the degree to which Cantonese is taking on a regional standard role in China.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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