chapter  10
16 Pages

Sri Lankan Englishes Dushyanthi Mendis and Harshana Rambukwella

English in Sri Lanka dates back to British colonization at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1802, Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, was declared a Crown Colony with English as its official language. Although Sri Lanka gained independence from the British in 1948, English continued to function as the country’s de facto official language until 1956, when Sinhala became the sole official language under the terms of the Official Language Act No. 33. Official recognition was not accorded to English again until 1987, when it was included in the chapter on language in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Attempting a description of English as it is used and spoken in Sri Lanka today is

challenging because of the many complexities involved in terms of speakers, status and functions, dialectal variation and recognition and acceptance. As observed by Meyler (2007: x-xi):

Even within a small country like Sri Lanka, and even within the relatively tiny English-speaking community, there are several sub-varieties of Sri Lankan English. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers speak different varieties; Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims have their own vocabularies; the older generation speak a different language from the younger generation; and the wealthy Colombo elite (who tend to speak English as their first language) speak a different variety from the wider community (who are more likely to learn it as a second language).