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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Literacy Events and Literacy Practices from the Hong Kong Chinese Perspective: The Case of SMS Texting

Carmen K. M. Lee.

Literacy Events (LE) and Literacy Practices (LP) are two of the major concepts within social approaches to literacy, such as New Literacy Studies (NLS). However, their meanings seem to vary in different studies and contexts. For instance, some works treat LE as occasions that initiate LP (e.g. Barton 1994), while some consider LP as a broader concept that encompasses both events and social activities involving reading and writing (e.g. Street 1984, 2000). This paper seeks to revisit these two concepts through analysing the use of mobile texting - SMS (Short Message Service) in Hong Kong.

The study was based on a 5200-word corpus of 490 SMS messages, which formed part of the Hong Kong ICT-corpora (Bodomo 2000 to now) developed at the University of Hong Kong. A questionnaire survey with 92 university students was also conducted in order to complement the text analysis. A number of culturally and linguistically specific events and practices are identified.

This paper attempts to develop finer-grained definitions of LE and LP so as to identify their inherent components. It proposes that both LE and LP have to be accounted for in any language and literacy research situation. The existence of LE is crucial in the sense that it provides the physical context for instantiating LP. Moreover, LP handles both culturally specific activities as well as people’s values and thoughts about what they do with texts (Maybin 2000, Lee 2002). It is also argued that, though their components may vary in different social contexts, their nature should be standardized. In the information age, a clearer relationship between literacy events and practices has to be established.


Carmen K. M. Lee  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Research Assistant
Department of Linguistics
The University of Hong Kong

Carmen Lee is Research Assistant at the Department of Linguistics, University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include the linguistic features of computer-mediated communication, and the relationship between language and literacy education in the age of information technology. Her M.Phil thesis examines Chinese and English computer-mediated communication in Hong Kong within the theoretical framework of New Literacy Studies.

  • Literacy Events,
  • Literacy Practices,
  • Mobile Texting (SMS)

(30 min Conference Paper, English)