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Perceived threats and support for the maintenance of Portuguese language in Macau : the Macanese experience

English Abstract

Submitted by Wong, Chi Teng (student number: MA955186) for the degree of Master of Arts in English Studies at the University of Macau in September 2015.Cantonese, Portuguese, English and Mandarin Chinese are the four main languages of Macau (Leong, 2011), with the first two granted official status in the region. Each of the languages has its own roles and functions in Macau. However, unlike the popularity of the other three languages, the use of Portuguese is quite limited in the city: it is used only within the Macanese community, among some Portuguese expatriates in Macau, for legislation and public administration, and as a tool for commercial and cultural exchange between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. From the interview findings of some celebrities of Macau, the related literature, some personal observations, and the official statistics of the Macau Government, it is concluded that the use of Portuguese in Macau has been even more restricted since the handover of Macau’s sovereignty from Portugal to China in 1999. This research is motivated by the declining usage of Portuguese in the region and the worry that this language will not be passed onto the next generation in the city. At the same time, as the ability to use Portuguese has provided the Macanese privilege in public administration of Macau and higher social status in the city (Zhao, 1994; De Pina Cabral and Lourenço, 1993), the Macanese community was believed to be most directly affected if Portuguese was no longer in use or in need in the region. In this case, facing the decreasing use of Portuguese in Macau, the attitude of the Macanese, who are now living in Macau and who switch between Chinese, Portuguese and other languages in different contexts in their everyday life, was crucial to the question whether the Portuguese language could be preserved in Macau. Through interview with and observation on six Macanese from different background and ages in Macau, this paper aims to analyze the perceived threats and support for the maintenance of Portuguese language in Macau. Although the findings may not be representative for the whole Macanese community, only one of the six interviewees has complete optimism towards the preservation of Portuguese in Macau. The other participants either noticed that Portuguese in the region is less frequently used than before but they do nothing to help to resist the change or totally neglect the situation. In addition to this, the threats to Portuguese include the competition of English and Mandarin language to Macau, the one-sided promotion of Portuguese learning by the Macau government, and the past conflicts and unequal status between Chinese and Portuguese speaking groups in the region

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Wong, Chi Teng


Faculty of Arts and Humanities


Department of English




Portuguese language -- Macau

Language and languages -- Macau


Moody, Andrew Jackson

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