The maintenance of Sri Lankan languages in Australia - comparing the experience of the Sinhalese and Tamils in the homeland

Nirukshi Michelle Perera

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6 Citations (Scopus)


In the study of language maintenance and shift for migrant groups in Australia, scholars have tended to focus on how personal factors or aspects of life in the host society shape language maintenance patterns. In this study, I explore how factors originating in the homeland affect language maintenance for Sri Lankan migrants in Australia. The aim of the research is to compare the experiences of Sinhalese and Tamil migrants. Sri Lanka has suffered through over three decades of ethnic unrest and civil war that many argue was sparked by a language policy which marginalised Tamils. In this study, I explore whether the different homeland conditions for Sinhala and Tamil speakers led to quantifiably different experiences of language maintenance in each group. I focus on the interplay of three homeland factors: experience with English, stance on political issues and the role of individual religiosity in determining language maintenance and shift. This study found that there was no clear difference between the language maintenance practices of the two ethnic groups, but it did show that those who were more devout in their ethnic religion (Hinduism or Buddhism) and/or nationalistic tended towards higher language maintenance across both Sinhalese and Tamils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297 - 312
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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