Key to pronunciation: Hong Kong English

View the pronunciation model for Hong Kong English here.

The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in Hong Kong. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word. The keywords given in this key are to be understood as pronounced in such speech.

All words indicated as being associated with Hong Kong are also given British and American pronunciations alongside the Hong Kong pronunciation(s). Where a word is associated with an additional part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.

To hear the pronunciation spoken aloud, click the blue play icon to the left of each transcription.

Note from Catherine Sangster, Head of Pronunciations, October 2020

“A small but significant number of our World English pronunciations lack audio at the moment. Audio is created by freelance actor-phoneticians working with our sound engineer in our Oxford recording studio, but for the last several months it has been unsafe for us to run these sessions. We will prioritize addressing this backlog as soon as we can safely get back into our studio.”

Vowels

Hong Kong English As in…
i fleece, kit
i kit
ɛ dress, trap
ɑ father, start
ɔ lot, hawk, cloth, force
ʌ cup
u foot, goose
ə alpha, letter
ɜ nurse
ɪə here
ɛə square
ʊə cure
face
price
mouth
goat
ɔɪ choice

ᵿ represents free variation between /ʊ/ and /ə/.

Consonants

Hong Kong English As in…
b big /biɡ/
d dig /diɡ/
jet /dʒɛt/
f fig /fiɡ/
ɡ get /ɡɛt/
h head /hɛd/
j yes /jɛs/
k kit /kit/
l leg /lɛɡ/ 1
m men /mɛn/
n net /nɛt/
ŋ wing /wiŋ/
p pit /pit/
r red /rɛd/
s sit /sit/, zip /sip/
ʃ ship /ʃip/, leisure /ˈlɛʃə/ (or similar)
t tip /tip/
chip /tʃip/
w win /win/

1The additional symbol /o/ is used in Hong Kong English to indicate a ‘vocalized’ /l/ at the ends of words such as able /ˈeɪbo/.

Words with /v/ in British or American Englishes are pronounced with either /w/ or /f/ in Hong Kong English, while words which would have /z/ or /ʒ/ in British or American Englishes have voiceless /s/ and /ʃ/ respectively.

The British and American English sounds /θ/ and /ð/ are treated differently in Hong Kong English. Where /θ/ occurs in British English it is /f/ in Hong Kong English, but /ð/ becomes /d/ (e.g. thing /fiŋ/, though /doʊ/) except in word-final position where it is /t/. In Hong Kong English there is no distinction between /p/ and /b/, /t/ and /d/, or /k/ and /ɡ/ word-finally, so they are respectively transcribed as /p/, /t/, and /k/ in this position.

Aside from vocalized /l/, the consonants m and n can take on the function of a vowel in some unstressed syllables in Hong Kong English. It should generally be clear when this interpretation is intended, but in cases of potential ambiguity, the consonant symbol may appear with a diacritic, as in the British and U.S. pronunciations. A bracketed /(ə)/ indicates that some speakers may not pronounce the /ə/; in some cases this means the following consonant would take on the function of the vowel (e.g. U.S. sadden /ˈsæd(ə)n/).

Stress

The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress. The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress. The symbol ˈˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable may be pronounced with either primary or secondary stress.