Sri Lanka Malay


Sri Lanka Malay is a creole language of Sri Lanka. It originated approximately 300 years ago when Malay-speaking people from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) were brought to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as laborers. Their Malay dialect evolved with influence from the majority languages of Sri Lanka –  Sinhala and Tamil. There are approximately 40,000 speakers.

How endangered is Sri Lanka Malay? Today, few children speak Sri Lanka Malay in the home as their native language. The vast majority of speakers of all ages primarily use English or Sinhala in their daily interactions, except in a few small communities. The language does not have official status in Sri Lanka and is not supported in the educational system. For these reasons, there is concern that the language will last only a few more generations. For more information on use of Sri Lanka Malay in Sri Lanka and on the structure of the language, see this overview in the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures.

Toronto is home to approximately 200 Sri Lanka Malay speakers. In the following videos, Toronto residents discuss their lives as Sri Lanka Malay speakers in the city. You can find additional videos on our YouTube channel.

A note on orthography: There is no standard orthography for Sri Lanka Malay. In the past, texts were written using the Gundul alphabet (a modified Arabic script) or the Sinhala and Tamil alphabets. The orthography used by ELA Toronto in the closed captions of our videos is one currently under development by Mohamed Jaffar.

If you are speaker of Sri Lanka Malay who is interested in being recorded or otherwise being involved in this project, please contact us.

Recent Posts