Κυριακή 4 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

Legal Bilingualism in Hong Kong

"Since the political changeover, as it is called, in 1997, Hong Kong has had a bilingual common law system; Chinese (which often means Cantonese in the oral context and Standard Modern Chinese in the written context) and English share equal status within the system. In other words, the law stipulates that English and Chinese are to be used, received, understood, and treated as the same.
     What happens on the ground, that is, in the courts, however, suggests a different picture." (pp. 7-8)

"... Cantonese was the most unprepared of all languages ... to be thrust on a common law system. For almost 150 years, English monopolized the legal realm in Hong Kong. It was the exclusive legal language of any general court above  the level of magistracy. In 1997, as part of the changes adopted in light of the transfer of sovereignty, Chinese (which usually means Cantonese in oral settings) was made an official language of the law alongside English. This was done at a time when the linguistic diglossia between English and Cantonese that defined colonial governance was still very much intact." (p. 9)

"The real question for the legal future of Hong Kong is no longer whether the common law should be conducted in English or in Chinese. The real question for the future that lawyers and judges seem to have in mind is whether the common law in the voice of English should continue or whether a different non-common law system in the voice of Chinese should be introduced in the future. One thing that can be said with certainty, if one day the law in Hong Kong is comprehensively and independently voiced in Chinese, is that it will not be voiced in Cantonese but instead in the official language of the People's Republic of China, that is, Putonghua. That Chinese law will probably not be the common law either. There is a much better chance that Putonghua will gradually replace English as the elite language (including the legal language) in Hong Kong than that Cantonese will grow to become an elite language." (p. 268)

Τα αποσπάσματα αυτά είναι από το πολύ ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο του Kwai Hang Ng, The Common Law in Two Voices. Language, Law & the Post-Colonial Predicament in Hong Kong, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2009.

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