BACKGROUND The vast majority of the chapters in this volume were originally presented as papers at the First Hong Kong Conference on Language and Society, which was held at the University of Hong Kong from 24 to 28 April 1988.1

The Hong Kong conference

The theme of the Hong Kong conference was 'Sociolinguistics today: eastern and western perspectives'. In broad terms, the aims of the conference were to provide a forum for an exchange of views between academics working within the field of sociolinguistics in Asia and their counterparts in western societies, to promote the study of language and society in Asia, and to facilitate the establishing of academic contacts between researchers in Asia and those working in western universities.