A system without a system: Cantonese romanization used in Hong Kong place and personal names

Shin KATAOKA, Cream LEE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

From the colonial period (1842-1997) to the SAR period (1997-present), Hong Kong has used romanized Cantonese forms for local place and personal names, which can be found on identity cards, business cards, maps, street signs, as well as in underground and railway stations. This Cantonese romanization, generally called the Government system, may look systematic at first glance. However, as we carefully observe the 'system', we find it is inconsistent at times, which leads us to a series of questions like 'Is there a system? If so, why is it inconsistent?' or 'Who designed this romanization in the first place?' These questions triggered our research interest, so we started collecting data from various primary sources. Our analysis reveals that Cantonese romanizations are closely related to the presence of early protestant missionaries in China. This paper attempts to prove that the Government system is substantially a hybrid of three romanization systems--those of Eitel, Dyer-Ball and the Standard Romanization--all of which are legacies of nineteenth-century missionaries in China. Copyright © 2008 The University of Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-98
JournalHong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics
Volume11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008

Citation

Kataoka, S., & Lee, C. (2008). A system without a system: Cantonese romanization used in Hong Kong place and personal names. Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 11(1), 79-98.

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