This paper studies the discourses that underlie the controversy in the first half of 2014 over the status of Cantonese in Hong Kong. It turns out that the factors of mutual intelligibility and hard power are insufficient for this language/dialect debate. The writing system and literary tradition of Chinese complicate the status and identity issues of Cantonese. These complicating factors are language-specific in the sense that the orthographic depth and the “elegant” standard might differ significantly across languages. Added to these is the semantic complication that the meaning of terms varies not just because of translation, but also that there are alternative ways to conceptualize them. This paper concludes that the definition of linguistic terms like “language” and “dialect” is becoming more and more in the hands of the people. Recent developments in communication have brought the debate in Hong Kong to a new level. It is expected to be the trend of how sociolinguistic topics are pursued.
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