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The University of Hong Kong
Examining language loss through an ecolinguistic lens: The case of Hakka in Hong Kong

This talk will examine language loss and language endangerment from an ecolinguistic perspective, an approach which emphasises the interrelationships between a language, its speakers, and their sociocultural and natural environment. I focus on the situation of Hakka, a Chinese fangyan ('dialect group') widely used in Hong Kong several decades ago but now a disappearing variety facing demise in this local setting. Every natural language reflects a unique worldview and embodies the cultural wealth and knowledge accumulated by a people or community, and thus losing a language is more than merely losing the words used for communication. I attempt to illustrate this by discussing a few of the salient linguistic features and elements of the Hakka language that set it apart from other locally spoken Chinese varieties, and by exploring some of the sociocultural practices and ecological traditions specific to the Hakka people. Through this presentation, I hope to underscore the importance of valuing the diversity that still surrounds us today, making a case for both the protection of biocultural diversity and the preservation of sociolinguistic heritage.


Sherman Lee is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of English at HKU. She holds a BA from Manchester University, MPhil from Cambridge University, and PhD from City UHK. Her doctoral thesis examined language shift among Hong Kong’s Hakka community, and received the Outstanding PhD Thesis Award from the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong. She has taught at several universities in the UK and Hong Kong, most recently Hong Kong Shue Yan University, where she served as Programme Director of the BA in English programme. Her teaching and research interests cover areas in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, intercultural communication, and the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education.

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/93142681566?pwd=ODgxbEwvRk1XRVBHdzJ4MGdMRXdXUT09

Meeting ID: 931 4268 1566
Password: 018418