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Vague language in Hong Kong English, ‘Something like that’

A comparative corpus investigation into a defining feature of English in Hong Kong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2019

Patrice Quammie–Wallen*
Hong Kong Polytechnic University


The computational analysis of corpora, a body of ‘naturally occurring language texts chosen to characterize a state of variety of a language’ (Sinclair, 1991: 171) provided the opportunity to reveal otherwise unobservable features and patterns across varieties, registers and languages. One such language feature is a ‘lexical bundle’ otherwise known as an n-gram. Vague terms in any language variety can often present themselves in the form of not just individual words (e.g. things, plenty, scores, stuff) but as a group of words that tend to co-occur: a lexical bundle (e.g. loads of, stuff like that, and so on, or what have you). In this paper, the function in Hong Kong English (HKE) of the vague n-gram ‘something like that’ will be explored via corpus methodology to account for its observed hyper-usage in Hong Kong society.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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