Origins, settlement and presence
Large numbers of Fujianese (福建人) came to Hong Kong from mainland China in particular in the 1930s and 1940s, as a consequence of China’s political instability during that period. They tended to congregate in the area of North Point, in particular around Chun Yeung Street – named after the Hokkien-Indonesian sugar trader Kwok Chun-yeung who invested in the area and developed it through reclamation projects and residential buildings – forming the famous ‘Little Fujian’ neighbourhood.
Today there are more than a million citizens of Fujian origin, though only around 160,000 people speak Hokkien in Hong Kong, according to the 2011 Population Census.
Nonetheless, there is a critical mass of Hokkiens such that the Hokkien variety had a prominent place in Hong Kong elections, with Choy So-yuk speaking in Hokkien in her election campaigns in order to gain support from the Hong Kong Fujianese.
Linguistic repertoires in various domains
Home. In the Hong Kong Hokkien community, linguistic repertoires across generations typical of immigrant groups are observed. The first generation of Hokkien immigrants to Hong Kong usually shows maintenance of their mother tongue in daily speech, largely due to great Hokkien community integration. The second generation may continue to have Hokkien as their mother tongue, speaking Hokkien in the home domain with their parents, elderly family members and relatives, but seldom transmit Hokkien to their children. Outside of the home domain, to adapt to life in Hong Kong, they learn and use Cantonese in their daily life. The third generation may still grow up in a family where Hokkien is used, usually in the older generations. However, isolated from the extended Hokkien-speaking community, they learn and use Cantonese in daily life more than Hokkien, and some may not even be Hokkien speakers.
Market transactions. In the ‘Little Fujian’ neighbourhood is found a wet market well known in Hong Kong for its attractive prices and the freshness of its goods, but., more significantly, traditional Hokkien cuisine and ingredients that are not easily found in other markets in Hong Kong are all found here. On Chun Yeung Street, stall owners actually bargain with their customers in Hokkien, and stall owners also communicate amongst themselves in Hokkien – a requirement, it would appear, for stall owners.
~ to be continued
Lo Man Yan Mandy, Vicky Yuen Ching Man, and Yuffie Yu Suet Mei. 2012. Hokkien language in Hong Kong. LCOM3001 Cultural dimensions of language and communication project, School of English, The University of Hong Kong. http://hokkien-in-hk.blogspot.hk/
3 institutes in Hong Kong offer Hokkien courses:
- The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Spare-time Study Services: beginner’s level, intermediate level, advanced level and an extension course.
- HKUSpace: Basic Minnanhua (the use of Hokkien in Taiwan context)
- Hong Kong Baptist University, School of Continuing Education: Learning Fukienese for Fun
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