Posted by: lrrp | May 30, 2008

Sri Lanka Portuguese Creoles

Sri Lanka Portuguese Creoles

Asian Portuguese Creoles once flourished in the coastal towns of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Macao but are a dying race. Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole was the successful solution to the intercommunication problems that arose when the Portuguese and Sri Lankans came into contact from the sixteenth century. The Creole served as a lingua franca, the language for external communication and trade purposes, for about three and a half centuries, until English took over this role.

In today’s Sri Lanka, the Creole is limited to the spoken form. Most of the speakers are the Burghers in the Eastern province Batticaloa and Trincomalee). But there are also the Kaffirs (people of African origin) in the Northwestern province (Puttalam). The Portuguese, Dutch and  British brought the Kaffirs to Sri Lanka, for labour purposes. They have assumed Portuguese culture and religion; later, there was intermarriage between them and the Portuguese Burghers.

.At the 1981 Census, the Burghers (Dutch and Portuguese) were almost 40,000 (0,3% of the population of Sri Lanka). But, the Portuguese Creole is losing ground as a spoken language. As the Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole is now only used at home and many are unable to speak the Creole very well, it is endangered. Many Burghers and Kaffirs emigrated to other countries. There are still 100 families in Batticaloa and Trincomalee and 80 Kaffir families in Puttalam that still speak the Portuguese Creole; they have been out of contact with Portugal since 1656.

University College London

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