Structure dataset 66: Sri Lankan Malay

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 66.

Sri Lankan Malay (SLM) is spoken by approximately 40,000 people. There has so far been no attempt to establish the precise numbers of speakers. In urban areas, it has become increasingly common over the last (approximately) forty years for many younger native speakers to be less fluent and less expressive in SLM than in other languages that they may have acquired as second languages in childhood or simultaneously with SLM, including Sinhala, English, and in a number of areas, Tamil/Shonam. This intergenerational decline in fluency is less evident in several smaller up-country (highland) communities. By contrast, the Malay residents of the southeastern coastal village of Kirinda, consisting of four hundred families, have thus far experienced no intergenerational decline whatsoever, and are effectively SLM-dominant from earliest childhood. There is strong dialect differentiation between (1) the western coastal area including Colombo, (2) the up-country area including Kandy, and (3) the southeastern area including Kirinda and Hambantota. Most of the data I have used in this APiCS contribution, with the exception of a small number of references to Colombo Malay, come from the variety of SLM spoken daily by all generations in Kirinda. This variety is ordinarily referred to by its speakers as Java ("Javanese"). It is the default lect in APiCS. While speakers of the Kirinda variety understand SLM varieties spoken elsewhere on the island, speakers from outside the southeastern region will find some of its vocabulary, functional morphology, and constructions to be unfamiliar or opaque, although rarely to the point of communicative breakdown.

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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 mb t d ʈ ɖ k g q
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v θ x ɣ χ h
Approximant 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 uhigh back rounded vowel long high back rounded vowel ɪlowered high front unrounded vowel ʊlowered 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 ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔːlong lower mid back rounded vowel æraised low front unrounded vowel æːlong raised low front unrounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel long low central unrounded vowel ɑlow back unrounded 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