Hong Kong People Speak: Rupert Chan and Twelfth Night

  • Shelby Kar-yan Chan
Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)


In 1991, Rupert Chan 陳鈞潤 (Chen Junrun ) wrote a book entitled 港人自講 (Gangren zi jiang). In it he discusses various aspects of the Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong, for which he coins the term 香港話 (Xianggang hua [Hongkong-speak]), as opposed to the Cantonese (廣府話 Guangfu hua) which originated and is spoken in Guangzhou 廣州, China. The book is an anthology of various loosely thrown together newspaper columns. Throughout its 30-some short chapters, the book conveys a sense of pride in the humour, receptiveness, flexibility and creativity of Hongkong-speak. The book title, very close to self-assertion and self-proclamation, suggests the cultural identity of people in the territory. Firstly, it is an interesting and witty pun. It can be translated as “Hong Kong people speak to themselves” or “Hong Kong people speak for themselves”. The title affirms the distinct entity of the people and their language. It also suggests a shared membership based on the language spoken by the people in the territory. In other words, Hongkong-speak is the language by which Hong Kong people communicate among themselves, as much as it is the language they use to communicate themselves to the rest of the world. Secondly, in Cantonese 港人自講 is a homophone of 港人治港 (Gangren zhi gang [Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong]. In Cantonese, both phrases are pronounced gong 2 -yan 4 ji 6 gong 2 ). The latter was the basis of the constitution of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region imposed by Beijing. Through this title, Chan attempts to relate the autonomy of Hongkong-speak to the autonomy of the territory. Chan’s writing may be tongue-in-cheek, and it is intended to achieve rhetorical rather than political effect, yet his association makes sense from a linguistic point of view. Language is tied up with identity, especially in the case of Hong Kong (Scollon 1998: 277), in that individual speakers express their choice of identity by their choice of language and by the degree to which they focus their speech on a given variety (Pennington 1998: 9). Through such “acts of identification”—or what Le Page and Tabouret-Keller (1995) term an “act of identity”—speakers signal their degree of affiliation with one sociocultural group or another, or they create new identities and affiliations which blend the attributes of existing groups.


Tang Dynasty Local Audience Hybrid Language Theatre Translation Newspaper Column 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelby Kar-yan Chan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of TranslationHang Seng Management CollegeHong KongHong Kong SAR

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