Evidentiality and identity positioning in online disputes about language use in Hong Kong


  • Jamie McKeown The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Hans J. Ladegaard The Hong Kong Polytechnic University




Cantonese and Putonghua in Hong Kong classrooms, evidentiality, identity positioning, online discussion


This paper analyses online disputes amongst a group of students about the use of language (Cantonese versus Putonghua) in Hong Kong. Using evidentiality and identity positioning frameworks, we analyse 44 student posts to a proprietary online forum. Particular attention is paid to the construction of a Hong Kong social identity, the various identity positions that underpin such a construction, and how such identity work is supported by the use of evidentiality. The analysis shows that Hong Kong locals are most often constructed as an oppressed, marginalised minority who are denied the right of authentic expression and are subject to a process of politically expedient cultural denigration. The analysis also shows that evidential choices are intimately bound with identity positions at both the discourse-production level and discourse-content level. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for applied linguistics in Hong Kong’s schools and universities.

Author Biographies

Jamie McKeown, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Jamie McKeown is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Previous to his current appointment, he studied anthropology and law at Cambridge University and was a PhD student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His doctoral thesis concerns the use of reflexivity in workplace group email. He has previously published in the Journal of Pragmatics, Discourse & Communication and Pragmatics and Society.

Hans J. Ladegaard, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Hans J. Ladegaard studied at Odense University in Denmark and Cambridge University in the UK. He is Professor and Head of the Department of English at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include intercultural and intergroup communication, language attitudes and stereotypes, language and gender, narratives of migration and pragmatics and discourse analysis.


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How to Cite

McKeown, J., & Ladegaard, H. J. (2020). Evidentiality and identity positioning in online disputes about language use in Hong Kong. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 14(1), 53-74. https://doi.org/10.1558/jalpp.35604