Social class and language attitudes in Hong Kong

Mee Ling LAI

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21 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the relation between social class and language attitudes through a triangulated study that analyses the attitudes of 836 secondary school students from different socioeconomic backgrounds toward the 3 official spoken languages used in postcolonial Hong Kong (HK; i.e., Cantonese, English, and Putonghua). The respondents were divided into 3 social class groups (viz. middle, lower-middle, and working class), according to their parents' occupations and levels of educational attainment. This particular group of students started its secondary school education when the mandatory Mother Tongue Education Policy was just implemented after China resumed sovereignty over HK. Data were collected through a questionnaire survey and focus-group interviews. This study was designed to test 2 hypotheses: (a) that the middle-class group would be the most positively inclined toward English and (b) that the working-class group would display the most positive attitudes toward Putonghua due to closer social distance. Although the results from the questionnaire survey appeared to provide a degree of support for both hypotheses, little evidence was found in the interview data to indicate that the working-class group did, in fact, aspire to Putonghua either as an alternative form of linguistic capital or a symbol of preferred social identity. Copyright © 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-106
JournalInternational Multilingual Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


Lai, M. L. (2010). Social class and language attitudes in Hong Kong. International Multilingual Research Journal, 4(2), 83-106. doi: 10.1080/19313150903500945


  • Hong Kong
  • Language attitudes
  • Social class


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