Linguistic democratization in HKE across registers: The effects of prescriptivism
The second half or the twentieth century witnessed the emergence and expansion of linguistic changes associated to a number of processes related to changes in socio-cultural norms, such as colloquialization, informalization and democratization. This paper focuses on the latter, a phenomenon that has been claimed to be responsible for several ongoing changes in inner-circle varieties of English, but is rather unexplored in outer-circle varieties. The paper explores Hong Kong English and studies two linguistic sets of markers that include items that represent the (old) undemocratic alternative and the (new) democratic option, namely modal must vs. semi-modals have (got) to, need (to) and want to, and epicene pronouns including undemocratic generic he, on the one hand, and democratic singular they and conjoined he or she, on the other. Using the Hong Kong component of the International Corpus of English, and adopting a register approach, the paper reaches conclusions regarding the role played by prescriptivism in the diffusion of democratic items.
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