English linguistic neo-imperialism: A case of Hong Kong

Mee Ling LAI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Phillipson, R. (2012, “Linguistic Imperialism Alive and Kicking.” The Guardian, March 13. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/mar/13/linguistic-imperialism-english-language-teaching) warned that ‘linguistic imperialism is alive and kicking’. Although the validity of the linguistic imperialism construct may be questioned in the twenty-first Century as the Anglo-American colonial powers further retreat from the Asian region, linguistic neo-imperialism prevails and the hegemonic power of English continues through its transformation from a colonial language into the lingua franca of the world. This paper tells about a language conflict that happened in a university in Hong Kong, where a local faculty member, when insisting on adopting the local language as the main medium for an in-house meeting, was regarded as advocating linguistic exclusion by a group of native speakers of English. This should not be seen as an isolated case but rather one that illustrates the hegemonic power of English in the era of globalisation. Through a critical analysis of related emails, the major viewpoints of different parties are highlighted to unveil the prevailing forces of linguistic neo-imperialism, and the associated ideologies of the Centre and the Periphery. Copyright © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-412
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number4
Early online dateDec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Lai, M. L. (2021). English linguistic neo-imperialism: A case of Hong Kong. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 42(4), 398-412. doi: 10.1080/01434632.2019.1702667


  • Linguistic imperialism
  • Language dominance
  • Language rights
  • Postcolonial Hong Kong
  • Centre and periphery


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