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Adstrate Influence in Sri Lanka Malay: Definiteness, Animacy and Number in Accusative Case Marking

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Sri Lanka Malay is a creole-like language spoken by the descendents of soldiers, exiles and slaves brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch from Java and their possessions in the Indonesian archipelago in the 17th and 18th centuries and by recruits brought by the British from the Malayan Peninsula and elsewhere in the 19th century. Various authors have noted the influence of indigenous languages on the structure of Sri Lanka Malay but disagreement has arisen over the source and mechanism. An examination of the interaction of definiteness, number, animacy and the accusative case in Sinhala, Tamil, and Sri Lanka Malay nominal inflection shows that Sri Lanka Malay aligns more closely here with Tamil than with Sinhala. The pattern of accusative case marking, in particular, can be attributed to Tamil influence. Moreover, the ubiquity of accusative case marking in Sri Lanka Malay together with its obscure origin and the absence of recent cataclysmic social events to trigger rapid linguistic change indicate that this alignment is of long standing, rather than a recent development.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics York University, Email: iansmith@yorku.ca

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