5dez 2022
06:30 UTC

Variation in Sri Lanka Portuguese pronouns

This paper investigates the instances of synchronic variation attested in the personal pronoun paradigm of modern Sri Lanka Portuguese, an endangered Portuguese-based creole spoken by relatively small communities scattered across Eastern and Northern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Portuguese has a long history of documentation and, in recent times, has been the object of linguistic description (mostly by Ian Smith (1977, 1979, 2013) which defined its essential grammatical characteristics. However, despite occasional remarks in these descriptive sources (see e.g. Smith 1979:213; 215-216), instances of variation within SLP have not been explored in much detail – potentially because, until recently, the available spoken data had been produced by relatively few speakers, mostly concentrated in the city of Batticaloa. However, a major documentation project (Cardoso 2017; see also Cardoso et al. 2019) has now collected language samples from over 150 speakers in nearly 50 different locations (towns or town areas) scattered across 4 districts of Eastern and Northern Sri Lanka (Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Ampara, and Jaffna). This much wider and more varied corpus now reveals significant variation in several domains, be it between locations or within single regions. Some of the most salient instances of variation that emerge relate to the personal pronoun paradigm, which we explore in this study.

The nature of the variation observed in the data ranges from phonetic alternations to strategies of paradigm regularization and stylistic shrinkage, often revealing the effects of diachronic processes of variant competition and substitution. Combining the observed patterns of variation with surveyed linguistic trends of language shift, we propose that obsolescence may be responsible for some of the variability encountered in modern SLP personal pronouns, especially that associated with certain socially- or geographically-defined subsets of the speech community (viz. the younger generations and the speakers from Jaffna) characterized by advanced language loss.