Complicating Factors of English Usage in a Post-Colonial Context: A Linguistic Survey of Sri Lanka

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2017

Faculty Sponsor

Gail Shuck


In past centuries, the English language has spread throughout the world along with the spread of imperial power. A region of the world largely affected by both this imperialism and language dissemination is Southern Asia, particularly India and its surrounding nations. Sri Lanka, an island country off the coast of India formerly under British rule, is one such nation. Our survey examines the resistance toward English in Sri Lanka, the varieties of English associated with Sri Lanka, and Sri Lankan ideas surrounding cultural language usage.

The situation of Sri Lanka is interesting because of the history of conflict between its local ethnic groups and colonial powers. However, the relationship between Sri Lankan national identity and English as a rapidly spreading language of globalization is complicated. This relationship is affected by post-colonial attitudes as well as pre-existing factors, such as ethnic conflict, class dynamics, and non-English language ideologies. In particular, we want to examine Sri Lankan English and its complex identity in the world of Englishes.

Past research has shown that Sri Lankan English is viewed as grammatically and socially inferior in comparison to British and American English by its native speakers. By surveying the historical influences, linguistic characteristics, and social connotations of English in Sri Lanka, we hope to take a step forward in understanding the fundamentals of why English dialects are perceived differently on a global level. Ultimately, our poster presentation will examine the use of English in Sri Lanka and its implications in other global contexts.

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