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Selected Research Project
Project Title A Typological and Sociolinguistic Study of the Gelong Language Spoken in Western Hainan
Principal Investigator

Dr. Chin Chi On, Andy

Area of Research Project Language, Literature and Linguistics
Project Period
From 10/2011 To 3/2014

This project investigates one of the less-studied languages, Gelong (s), now spoken in Dongfang City (F襫), Western Hainan, where people speaking Sinitic and non-Sinitic languages have been interacting since ancient times. In addition to providing up-to-date documentation on Gelong with an aim of identifying the linguistic strata of Chinese and the aboriginal language, Li (y), embedded in Gelong, this project also focuses on the sociolinguistic development of Gelong by examining its degree of language shift and language loss as a consequence of the promotion of Putonghua and rapid urbanization.

Methods Used

The documentation on Gelong will be based on an extensive list of lexical items and grammatical structures with an aim of determining the roles Chinese and Li played in the formation of Gelong. In addition, this project will solicit linguistic data from native speakers of different generations in order to observe ongoing linguistic changes in the language and to work out the mechanism and factors contributing to these changes.

The study on language shift and language loss as a consequence of rapid urbanization will be based on the proven sociolinguistic technique, a 69-key-item questionnaire designed and used by the project team in their previous studies in Sanya and Guangxi. The degree of language shift and language loss will be measured by the relative usage of different languages (such as Putonghua, Gelong, and other local dialects) in three major domains: family, school, and social environments. The results can then be compared against those obtained in other multilingual communities, such as Guangxi and Sanya.


The special sociolinguistic and linguistic background of Gelong provides an unusual opportunity to study and understand ongoing and accelerating language development in terms of linguistic divergence and convergence. This project is thus expected to shed light on our understanding of human language development as a result of extensive and prolonged language contact and other broader sociolinguistic issues, such as language endangerment under rapid urbanization. Furthermore, we expect that our work can increase awareness, particularly within the Gelong community, regarding the loss of their mother tongue. The outcomes of this project might also be useful to anthropologists and sociologists working in the context of China and Southeast Asia.

  • Chin, Andy Chi-on. (forthcoming). "The Gelong language in the multilingual hub of Hainan". Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics
Biography of Principal Investigator
Dr. Andy Chin is Associate Professor of Department of Linguistics and Modern Language Studies. He has a wide range of interests in linguistics research, including linguistic typology, sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, and Chinese linguistics. He has secured different types of (research) projects supported by General Research Fund, Early Career Scheme, Knowledge Transfer Fund, Central Research Scheme and Teaching Development Grants.

More information about Dr. Chin can be obtained from his homepage at http://www.hkseattle.com.
Funding Source

General Research Fund