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Under the Hong Kong government’s policy of  trilingualism and biliteracy, Cantonese, English and Putonghua are meant to be of equal importance. But in reality, the three are often competing.

This issue of Varsity looks at the language wars in Hong Kong:

Hong Kongers have leapt to defend Cantonese from perceived encroachment from Putonghua and in response to the pro-Cantonese movement in Guangdong

Some Cantonese-speaking parents in Hong Kong insist on only speaking English to their children

More and more schools are switching to teaching Chinese language lessons in Putonghua rather than Cantonese




  1. 一口氣閱畢四篇文章:The Language War, A Wordy Debate,Parents Opt for English,Putonghui – a better way to learn?有所感觸,不吐不快。一個關乎中國人的國語、香港人的母語的大題目文章,竟以英文為媒介刊登,不成體統;文章The Language War的War字屬危言聳聽,富暴力挑釁;文章A Wordy Debate中之中文骨節字眼又缺中譯〔如“hou”, “back” and “queen” ;(zi) (cihui); (jiaguwen); (zhuanshu)〕,使人看起來頭昏腦脹。


    1) 受近代歷史事件影響,西方思想壓倒我華夏之優良思想文化,國人港人漸受荼毒而不自覺。

    2) 現世代西方思潮之盛,國人港人對之“傾慕”不已,說話中西夾雜,講話詞不達意,用字彆扭扁平。商業社會則以功利掛帥,一遍浮誇歪風,傳統美德漸殆,以此觀之,談何保護祖宗語言文化呢?

    3) 大部份人不知、國語及普通話之淵源。古漢語本不止普通話之“平上去入”四聲,是因受異族之統治而被簡化(閹割)。之後北方話跟唐詩宋詞就出現隔閡,未能盡領詩詞神韻了。嶺南粵語,保留了大部份古音,故不才認為,粵語比普通話優,不幸,正體字正步古漢語後塵。統治者之力量,豈止限於語言文字,北望神州,自不待言。故不才謂,捍衛方言,實乃政治大事。

    四文所有受訪人士中,余對A Wordy Debate 文中之Cheung Kam-siu(assistant professor of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at the CUHK)之言論感錯愕並且不滿。難為他職銜跟語文及文學扯上關係,他不懂漢字具“形音義”之美,只說中文是表意符號(From purely a linguistic point of view, Cheung says words are merely symbols that denote and encode messages. If these characters, or put simply, symbols, are able to function effectively as a tool for communication, then they would have served their purpose.),更不明政治上深一層意義,只知其功用而已(...This diversity in languages is solely for practical purposes and the same principles should apply to public signboards and banners. Cheung says political and socio-cultural factors simply do not come into play.)。

    很同意Parents Opt for English 文中Katherine Chen (As linguistic sociologist )之見解,語言關乎價值思想、文化智慧(Katherine Chen says, it is good for children to know more languages. “To me, a language is not just a language; it is not just for communication,” says Chen. “It is also a window into a whole culture with different values, thoughts and wisdom.)。


  2. Thank you for your comments.

    In this issue of Periscope, We looked at how Cantonese, English and Putonghua are competing for an equal footing in Hong Kong.

    The word ‘war’ is used as a metaphor and not to denote any use of violence.

    As for writing our story in English, Varsity is an English language magazine and we always inform our interviewees of this fact. We see no reason why a story about the Chinese language cannot be written in English. We hope this issue of Periscope can provide a platform for more non-Chinese readers to engage in the discussion about language in Hong Kong.

    In ‘Defending Cantonese’, our focus is the development of the pro-Cantonese movement rather than the history of Cantonese itself (although we agree this is a very interesting topic in its own right). Due to limitations of space, we could not include all the points addressed by all of our interviewees, but we did strive to present a variety of different views.

    We respectfully note your comments and views.

    Joyce Lee, Editor-in-Chief

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