A corpus for Sri Lankan English

(April 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  In linguistics, a corpus (plural corpora) or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts. They are used to do statistical analysis and hypothesis testing, checking occurrences or validating linguistic rules on a specific universe.

Now, a corpus for Sri Lankan English is being compiled under the International Corpus of English project (ICE). The International Corpus of English (ICE) began in 1990 with the primary aim of collecting material for comparative studies of English worldwide. Twenty research teams around the world are preparing electronic corpora of their own national or regional variety of English. Each ICE corpus consists of one million words of spoken and written English produced after 1989. For most participating countries, the ICE project is stimulating the first systematic investigation of the national variety. To ensure compatibility among the component corpora, each team is following a common corpus design, as well as a common scheme for grammatical annotation.

The Sri Lankan component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-SL) is conducted by the university of Giessen in Germany, with the coordination of several Sri Lankan Universities.

As research assistant Tobias Bernaisch mentioned to Daily News, the written component of the ICE-SL is completed and the compilation of the spoken data will start in June.

'ICE-SL project is considered as the first systematic investigation of the Sri Lankan English (SLE). It reflects how SLE is actually being used by the competent speakers of it,' says Daily News adding 'This will be of immense use for investigations on how SLE is really used in various communicative contexts and will help to identify characteristics of SLE.'

A debate is ongoing among Sri Lankan academicians about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

Michael Meyler that wrote 'A Dictionary of Sri Lankan English' highlights the need to codify standard Sri Lankan English and draw up a guide for English teachers. 'With the added advantage of taking ownership of the language, and stripping away the colonial baggage which comes with the traditional British model,' he says.

Following is what Wikipedia says about Sri Lankan English.

Sri Lankan English (SLE) is the English language as spoken in Sri Lanka.

The earliest English speakers in present-day Sri Lanka date back to the days of the British Empire, the era of Royal Navy dominance, and the British colonial presence in South Asia.

An SLE consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary and author of the book Knox's Words[1][2] notes that British readers first encountered loan words from Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) in a book published in 1681 entitled An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon in the East Indies. Words from that book became used internationally: the best known is Buddha but others include Anaconda[3], betel leaf, bo tree, puja, rattan, rillow, Vedda, and wanderoo.

SLE became more indigenous in the mid-19th century. In addition to the usual terms for flora and fauna, new idioms, referred to as Ceylonisms, emerged.

Some years after independence in 1948, English ceased being the only official language of Sri Lanka, but it remained in use across the island's ethnic groups. It evolved to incorporate more Sinhalese vocabulary and grammatical conventions such as the use of "no?" as a tag question at the end of a sentence.

In spite of English's long history in Sri Lanka, 21st century Sri Lankans academicians debate about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

A significant difference between British English and Sri Lankan English usage is its use of particular tenses. Many educated Sri Lankans would use past perfect tense to talk about things that happened at a fixed time in the recent past instead of past simple. Many Sri Lankans still use words such as frock (to scold) and the question form 'to whom' which are not familiar to modern British English speakers. Another example of typical Sri Lankan English is posing questions by changing the intonation, e.g. "you are hungry?"

There are certain nouns added to English by Sri Lankans and therefore a native English speaker coming to Sri Lanka for the first time would not know what Shorteats (snacks) and string hoppers (a typical Sri Lankan food) mean. If you read a daily newspaper, you may find a number of typical Sri Lankan usages, which may not be accepted in standard British English: such as 'lots of equipments', 'information system', 'education minister'.


  1. In sri lanka most of people speak Singlish rather than English except few English educated.


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