Globalisation, Empowerment and the Periphery: The Malays of Sri Lanka
Umberto Ansaldo & Lisa Lim
Amsterdam Center for Language & Communication, University of Amsterdam
Spuistraat 210, 1012VT Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS
The diasporic Malay communities of Sri Lanka are characterised by a unique language, Sri Lanka Malay (SLM), a mixed language of trilingual base. Constituting less than 0.3% of the population, the Malays of Sri Lanka are an extremely vulnerable community in the sense of Hyltenstam and Stroud (2005). While the Malays have always tended to be multilingual in SLM and the country's two dominant languages, Sinhala and Tamil, in recent years, different degrees of loss of their vernacular can be noticed. The more recent tendency is the focus of our paper: the community's desire to acquire Standard Malay (StdM). In the Colombo community, with higher education and socioeconomic status, the desire to acquire StdM can be seen as a reaction to a growing sense of identity and in recent years a strong drive for language revitalisation. In Kirinda, a small fishing village with low economy and high unemployment, the belief is that acquisition of StdM will allow them to plug into the global economy. This paper discusses the rationale behind this shift with respect to globalisation and empowerment.