The first Americans in Hong Kong were missionaries. They first reached Hong Kong in 1842, after the lifting of the ban on proselytization due to the outcome of the First Opium War. American missionaries came to Hong Kong to open churches and at the same time engaged in cultural and publishing activities.1
In 1950, due to the Korean War, the relations between China and America became tense and many American missionaries began to depart Mainland China for Hong Kong.2 In the mid-1950s, American missionaries in Hong Kong played an important role in implementing American policy, participating directly in the distribution of aid and the recommendation and processing of refugees seeking to immigrate to the United States.3
In the first Hong Kong Census, conducted in 1911, there were 1,416 residents of United States nationality out of Hong Kong’s then 849,751 population. In 1966, 4,680 of Hong Kong’s residents were listed as having the United States or Canada as place of origin; in 1971, there were 5,483 Americans living in Hong Kong, 0.01% of the population. In the 1991 census, there were 18,383 Americans registered as living in Hong Kong, 0.30% of the population. In 1996, 28,946 Americans resided in Hong Kong, 0.50% of the population. In 2001, 14,379 Americans were living in Hong Kong, 0.20% of the population. In 2006, there were 13,608 Americans living in Hong Kong, 020% of the population. In 2011, 16,742 Americans were living in Hong Kong, 0.20% of the population. In 2016, 14,749 Americans were living in Hong Kong, 0.20% of the population; in 2021,14,043 Americans were living in Hong Kong, 0.20% of the population.4
When did it emerge?
North American settlement by English speakers began in the seventeenth century, amounting to about 150,000 migrants from all parts of Britain.5 This settlement led to the large-scale replacement of the native American population. In the eighteenth century, English settlers and Europeans continued to migrate to and settle in North America, and thousands of Africans were brought involuntarily to the colonies.6
Due to continuous change in the immigrant population, a new “complex system” of speech interactions was created, where American English emerged.6
Place of origin
The United States
British English, Native American languages, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Yiddish
American English is a West Germanic language in the Indo-European language family.
Main regional, ethnic, and social varieties
General American English
Regional varieties including: New York City English, New England English, Southern American English, California American English, Appalachian American English, Midwest American English.
Ethnic varieties including African American English, Chicano English7
American English vowels:
Crib [ɪ], three [i], ten [ɛ], eight [ei], bag [æ], crop [ɑ], wood [ʊ], tooth [u], low [ɔ], sun [ə], five [ai], down [au], road [ou], boil [ɔi]6
Major pronunciation featuresː6
The don/down mergerː some prefer don/down with [ɑ] while others prefer it with [ɔ].
American English still has [ə] as the vowel of love and does not raise it towards [ʋ] as heard.
The vowel in roof, root (but not foot) alternates between [u, ʋ], with [ʋ] more common in the northern US.
New England preserves the [a] pronunciation in words of the half, glass, class.
Educated speakers in the south commonly pronounce the diphthong in five with a weakened glide, and in many areas, there is gradation in glide reduction by environment, such as increasing reduction in the series rye, rice, ride.
The palatal glide /j/ remains in words like cure, music, but is frequently deleted in others like Tuesday, coupon.
Postvocalic /l/ is often vocalized by educated speakers.
Most American English varieties have postvocalic /r/6
uniform use of -or for -our in words of more than one syllable (e.g., honor for honour)
uniform use of -er for -re (e.g., theater for theatre)
-se for -ce in defense, offense but not in fence
1Wang, L. X. (1997). American missionaries and the trend of “opening eyes to observe the world” in China after the Opium War”. American Studies in China, 2, 27-51.