Purdue University Graduate School
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Defending a Language: The Cantonese Umbrella Movement

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posted on 2020-04-25, 23:57 authored by Joshua S BaconJoshua S Bacon
This paper demonstrates how the Cantonese language can simultaneously serve as a threat to the Beijing government and a counter-hegemonic articulation of Hong Kong protesters against the Beijing government by applying the theory of hegemony and the method of critical discourse analysis to Hong Kong newspapers during the Umbrella Movement. Focusing on how the Cantonese language is used to communicate messages of protest leads to a more thorough understanding of the significance of the language in a Hong Kong identity context.Thus, while Cantonese plays a larger role in the Umbrella Movement protests than scholars give credit for,newspaper discourse also plays a large part in obscuring the connection between Cantonese and the protests. By addressing four research questions regarding Cantonese, I conclude that the three studied newspapers largely conceal the Cantonese discourse in relation to the Umbrella Movement protests. However, when Cantonese is discussed it is mainly along the lines of the political affiliation of the newspaper. Though some newspapers do hint at the counter-hegemonic abilities of Cantonese, this aspect is often undervalued and underappreciated. Likewise, when Cantonese issues are brought up they often converge with issues of national identity, but in a manner to downplay the Cantonese identity.As such, Wen Wei Po makes no effort to detail a Cantonese nation, but instead uses the concept of “Zhong hua min zu” (Chinese nation/Chinese race) to negate any differentiation. Meanwhile, Apple Daily and the South China Morning Post do insinuate the differences of Cantonese and Hong Kong, but keep the dialogue firmly within the “one country, two systems” setup to avoid angering Beijing. The analysis reveals that while newspapers sometimes use the voice of Hong Kong Cantonese,this generally takes place through a small amount of direct quotations and images of signs rather than a large-scale showcasing of the Cantonese identity and Cantonese vernacular.


Degree Type

  • Master of Arts


  • Communication

Campus location

  • Fort Wayne

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Wei Luo

Additional Committee Member 2

Steven A. Carr

Additional Committee Member 3

Assem A. Nasr

Additional Committee Member 4

Lee M. Roberts