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Open Access Comments on Nordhoff ’s “Establishing and Dating Sinhala Influence in Sri Lanka Malay”1

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Comments on Nordhoff ’s “Establishing and Dating Sinhala Influence in Sri Lanka Malay”1

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Students of Sri Lanka Malay agree that the language has been heavily influenced by the local languages, Sinhala and Tamil. Differences arise over not only the degree and timing of such influence from each language, but also the extent to which the language developed through untutored second language acquisition (on the part of Tamil &/or Sinhala speakers) &/or intense bilingualism (on the part of Malay speakers). Nordhoff’s arguments for Sinhala influence are examined in the context of Thomason’s (2001) framework for establishing contact-induced change and found to be convincing for some features, but weaker or unconvincing in others. The argument for early Sinhala phonological influence is based on an unsurprising distribution and the mechanism of substrate influence (Siegel, 1998, 2008) which has not been shown to operate in the context of intense bilingualism. The linguistic differing consequences of untutored second language acquisition and intense bilingualism have not been thoroughly investigated, except on lexicon (Thomason and Kaufman, 1988). The Sinhalese component of Sri Lanka Malay lexicon stands at less than 1% (Paauw, 2004), a figure inconsistent with the claim of heavy Sinhala influence through intense bilingualism.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics York University, Email:


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