International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 19, No 2 (2012)

Judicial discourse in Cantonese courtrooms in postcolonial Hong Kong: the judge as a godfather, scholar, educator and scolding parent

Janny H.C. Leung
Issued Date: 30 Dec 2012


This paper presents how legal bilingualism, especially the use of the local language in postcolonial Hong Kong courtrooms, impacts upon judicial behaviour. Through analysing recent cases where local judges seem to be wearing many new hats, I will explore the dynamic relationship between language code and judicial practice, and argue that the use of their first language has unveiled the human side and the often non-legal ideologies of these judges, which were previously masked by a judicial formalism that the use of the ex-coloniser’s language has cultivated. The cases show that the judges perform monolingual style shift and bilingual code switch as a response to their audience and referees. I will attempt to explain their verbal behaviour and describe the slow transformation of legal culture in Hong Kong as a result of its recent move towards legal bilingualism.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v19i2.239


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