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Sri Lanka Malay


Sri Lanka Malay

Sri Lankan Malay
Native to Sri Lanka, Middle East, Canada, Australia
Native speakers 46,000  (2006)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sci
Linguist List

Sri Lankan Malay (also known as Sri Lankan Creole Malay and Bahasa Melayu) is an Austronesian language formed through a unique mixture of Sinhala and Tamil with Malay. Sri Lankan Malay is a restructured vernacular of Malay base spoken by at least five different communities in Sri Lanka which has evolved to be significantly divergent from other varieties of Malay due to intimate contact with the dominant languages of Sinhala and Tamil. The language is exclusively spoken by Sri Lankan Malays, whose ancestry include exiles and labourers brought by the Dutch and British, as well as soldiers in the Dutch garrison. They now constitute 0.3% of the Sri Lankan population, numbering some 46,000.

Sri Lankan Malay survives mostly through oral contact. However, there have been rare instances when it was written in Sinhala or Tamil alphabet. In the 19th century, Sri Lankan Malay was written in the Gundul alphabet, which was based on the Arabic alphabet with similarities to the Jawi alphabet. Although there have been attempts to revive the written form of Sri Lankan Malay, it is presently in decline because many Malay youth are starting to adopt Sinhala or Tamil and English at home.


  • Ansaldo, U. 2008 Sri Lanka Malay revisited: Genesis and classification. In A. Dwyer, D. Harrison & D. Rood (eds). A world of many voices: Lessons from documented endangered languages. Typological Studies in Language 78. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 13-42.
  • Nordhoff, S. 2009. A grammar of Upcountry Sri Lanka Malay. PhD Dissertation University of Amsterdam.

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