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Sri Lankan Creole Malay

Sri Lankan Creole Malay (also known as Sri Lankan Malay, Bahasa Melayu, Ja basawa, and Java mozhi) is an Austronesian creole language formed through a mixture of Sinhala and Shonam (Sri Lanka Muslim Tamil), with Malay being the major lexifier.[3] Sri Lankan Malay is a restructured vernacular of Malay base spoken by at least five different communities in Sri Lanka which has evolved to be significantly divergent from other varieties of Malay due to intimate contact with the dominant languages of Sinhala and Tamil. Sri Lankan Creole Malay originated as a means of communication between the incoming Malays and the Sri Lankan people in the 13th century.[4] It is now exclusively spoken by Sri Lankan Malays, whose ancestry include exiles and labourers from Indonesia[3] brought by the Dutch and British, as well as soldiers in the Dutch garrison.[5] The majority of the speakers today reside in Northern Colombo.[3] Sri Lankan Malays now constitute 0.3% of the Sri Lankan population, which is approximately 46,000 people.[6]The exact number of speakers is unknown and there are no linguistic statistics available on the number of speakers living in or outside Sri Lanka. Based on the ethnic statistics of Sri Lankan Malays, the estimation of the number of Sri Lankan Creole Malay speakers is between 30,000 to 40,000. [3]

Sri Lankan Malay
Native toSri Lanka
EthnicitySri Lankan Malays
Native speakers
46,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sci

Sri Lankan Malay survives mostly through oral contact. However, there have been rare instances when it was written in Sinhala or Tamil alphabet. In the 19th century, Sri Lankan Malay was written in the Gundul alphabet, which was based on the Arabic alphabet with similarities to the Jawi alphabet. Although there have been attempts to revive the written form of Sri Lankan Malay, it is in decline because many Malay youth are starting to adopt Sinhala or Tamil and English at home.[citation needed] In the 1950s, language policies in Sri Lanka began favouring the use of Sinhala and individuals under the age of 50 are less fluent in the language than in previous generations. Among the younger generations, functional attrition, loss of lexical material, and language shift are evident. The Kirinda community in Hambantota is one of the few communities that speak Sri Lankan Creole Malay as their dominant language. Although children in the Kirinda community remain monolingual speakers of Sri Lankan Creole Malay before they enter primary school, the speakers of Sri Lankan Creole Malay today are insufficient to maintain the language in future generations. In some communities, Sri Lankan Creole Malay is clearly endangered.[3]


  1. ^ Sri Lankan Malay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sri Lanka Malay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e "APiCS Online - Survey chapter: Sri Lankan Malay". Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Sri Lankan Malay: A Unique Creole
  5. ^ Jayasuriya, Shihan de Silva (2009-06-01). "Cross-Cultural Influences on the Language of the Sri Lankan Malays". African and Asian Studies. 8 (3): 222–238. doi:10.1163/156921009X458091. ISSN 1569-2108.
  6. ^ "Sri Lankan Creole Malay". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-11-14.

Further readingEdit

  • Ansaldo, U. 2008 Sri Lanka Malay revisited: Genesis and classification. In A. Dwyer, D. Harrison & D. Rood (eds). A world of many voices: Lessons from documented endangered languages. Typological Studies in Language 78. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 13-42.
  • Nordhoff, S. 2009. A grammar of Upcountry Sri Lanka Malay. PhD Dissertation University of Amsterdam.
  • de Silva Jayasuriya, Shihan. 2002. Sri Lankan Malay: A unique creole. In Tadmor, Uri (ed.), Studies in Malay Dialects: Part III, 43-59. Jakarta: Universitas Atma Jaya.
  • Hussainmiya, B. A. n.d. Sri Lankan Malay Language: Some Preliminary. In.
  • Keeping Kirinda vital: The endangerment-empowerment dilemma in the documentation of Sri Lanka Malay ( pp. 51–66 ) . Lim, Lisa and Ansaldo, Umberto (2006) · ACLC Working Papers. 1
  • Nordhoff, Sebastian. forthcoming. Multi-verb constructions in Sri Lanka Malay. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages.
  • Nordhoff, Sebastian. 2007. Vowel quantity in Sri Lanka Malay. (paper presented at the Joint Summer Meeting of the SPCL and the ACBLPE).
  • Robuchon, G. 2003. Malayo Language in Sri Lanka. (Paper presented at the 7th International Symposium on the Malay/Indonesian Linguistics in Berg en Dal).
  • Ronit, R. (n.d.). Cross-Cultural Influences on the Language of the Sri Lankan Malays.
  • Slomanson, Peter. 2004. The syntax of tense and aspect in Sri Lankan Malay. (Paper presented at the SPCL summer meeting, Cura& cedil;cao Creole conference 2004, August 11–15, Cura& cedil;cao).
  • Slomanson, Peter. 2013. Sri Lankan Malay. In: Michaelis, Susanne Maria & Maurer, Philippe & Haspelmath, Martin & Huber, Magnus (eds.) The survey of pidgin and creole languages. Volume 3: Contact Languages Based on Languages from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

External linksEdit