Skip to the content | Change text size

Decoding Chinese English (CE): Definitions, Features, and Attitudes

Fourth LASC Annual Public Lecture 2011

Dr. Zhichang Xu, Monash University

24th October, 2011
3:00pm -- 4:30pm
Venue: Building 08 Room R5
RSVP: 01 Oct, 2011


English has increasingly become the default mode for international communication. As one of the most spoken languages, English has been given a number of names including English as an International English (EIL), English as a lingua franca (ELF), andWorld Englishes (WE). The plural form Englishes has attracted a certain amount of scholarly attention since the launch of the World Englishes journal in 1981, which stresses the WE-ness among the users of English, as opposed to us vs. them (native and nonnative speakers of English).

It is still controversial whether this We-ness includes CE and Chinese speakers of English. In this public lecture, Dr. Xu will review definitions of CE using World Englishes and Asian Englishes as a theoretical framework. He will also describe the lexical, syntactic, discourse and pragmatic features of CE, and report the findings of two surveys on Chinese university students’ attitudes towards CE.

Based on empirical data including interviews, newspaper texts and short stories, and questionnaires about CE, Dr. Xu will summarize and analyze the linguistic features of CE, including the classification of CE words, the identification of the syntactic features of CE, e.g., adjacent default tense, null-subject/object utterances, co-occurrence of connective pairs, subject pronoun copying, Yes-No response, topic comment, unmarked OSV, inversion in subordinate finite wh-clauses.

As far as discourse and pragmatic features of CE are concerned, the data shows that a variety of features exist in CE, including the ancestral hometown discourse, the discourse of ‘political status and political life’, ‘law and social order’, ‘power and hierarchy’, ‘guānxi and backdoor practice’, ‘work unit (or dānwèi) and welfare’, ‘face, name and honour’, and the encodings of Chinese pragmatic norms and cultural values in the use of curse words, metaphors, proverbs, and address terms. In addition, Dr. Xu will also report the findings of two surveys (in 2000 and 2010). These surveys show that the attitudes of Chinese university students towards CE have changed significantly over the first decade of the 21 st Century.


Dr. Zhichang Xu is a lecturer in English as an International Language (EIL) at Monash University. He has a disciplinary background in Applied Linguistics and Intercultural Education. His research areas include Chinese English (as an emerging Expanding Circle variety of English), English language teaching (ELT), intercultural education, blended teaching and learning, academic writing, and Chinese studies. His teaching focuses on language proficiency and content-based courses. He was an Associate Professor at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (1992-2002), and an Assistant Professor and Associate Programme Coordinator for MATEIL and MEd/MATESOL programmes in the English Department of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (2006-2011) before joining Monash University.