Structure dataset 41: Sri Lanka Portuguese

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 41.

Sri Lanka Portuguese is spoken by a dwindling number of the island’s Burgher ethnic group, descendants of unions between (primarily) Portuguese and Dutch men and local women. Speakers are still found in the Tamil-dominant east coast towns of Batticaloa and Trincomalee. The spoken varieties of these two towns exhibit only minor differences. Many of the South Asian characteristics of these varieties were also exhibited by speakers in the Sinhala-dominant region of the island. In addition, there existed a formal register displaying more European than South Asian morphosyntax. This register can be found in the 19th century literature, but by the 1970s, it was only poorly known by a very small number of speakers. Its origin is moot: was it a holdover of an earlier spoken variety or (my view) an artificial norm created by Anglophone missionaries, who began to use the language for evangelical purposes in the early 1800’s? The default lect documented in APiCS is the spoken variety of Batticaloa in the 1970s. Examples are taken mostly from my field notes of 1974-5.

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No. Feature Value Details Source
No. Feature Value Details Source


Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d ʈ ɖ k g
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ
Non-sibilant fricative β f ð ɣ h
Approximant ʋ l ɭ j
Flap or tap ɾ
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel long high front unrounded vowel ɨhigh central unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel long high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel long higher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel long higher mid back rounded vowel əmid central unrounded vowel əːlong mid central unrounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɛːlong lower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔːlong lower mid back rounded vowel ɑːlong low back unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value Details Source