The prosodic system of Hong Kong English

Hong Kong English (HKE) is a variety of English spoken in Hong Kong that results from the close interactions between British English (BrE) and Hong Kong Cantonese (HKC) at the community level.

Although we are not sure whether HKE should be considered an emergent variety, or just an interlanguage, it seems to be a consensus among scholars that speakers of HKE have reinterpreted the lexical stress system in BrE as a tone system. In general, every content word displays a tone contour M(id)-H(igh)-L(ow). The syllables that hold the H tone in HKE coincides with the stressed syllables in BrE. This lexical property has a consequence that the sentential melody of HKE is basically the aggregate tonal specification of the words in a sentence, plus some (optional) sentence-level tone targets at the right edge of an utterance.

As a “native” speaker of HKE, I believe that HKE is not a tonal variety of English. In particular, I believe that while HKE assigns stresses differently than BrE in some cases, HKE is still a stress-accent language. As far as sentential melody is concerned, more research is definitely required because there has been no descriptions available. This study primarily attempts to confirm my native speaker intuition, and come up with an autosegmental-metrical description of HKE intonation. As a second step, this study also investigates claims about prosodic L1 transfer from HKC to HKE, and how HKE prosodic system differs from that of a native variety of English like American English.

%d bloggers like this: