Agra Rajapakse Lekamlage PhD Defense: 'A Language Ideology-based Exploration of Ethnicity, Nationhood, and Power in Sri Lanka'

Committee: Doris Warriner (co-chair), Aya Matsuda (co-chair), Matthew Prior.  ::  ABSTRACT:  This dissertation study examined the language ideologies about the different languages used in Sri Lanka to understand how they may reflect and align with ideologies about ethnicity and national belonging and structures of power operating in Sri Lankan society. It was a qualitative study which gathered data by interviewing twelve participants from the four main ethnic communities of Sri Lanka. Through the analysis of data comprising observations about language evaluations and practices, three main themes were generated. First, the study showed that Sri Lanka is a complex multilingual context in which the status of different languages changes according to context, audience as well as the participants of an interaction and that therefore it is difficult to describe languages by static labels such as “first”, “second” or “link” language. Secondly, the study found the situation of English in Sri Lanka is still largely influenced by cultural practices introduced during colonial rule which has caused it to function as a basis for social division. The study also found that the situation of Sinhala and Tamil in Sri Lanka is shaped by ideologies about ethnicity and the social power that the two ethnic groups, the Sinhalese and Tamils, who speak the two languages, hold in society. Taken together these three main findings of the study showed that language ideologies in circulation in Sri Lanka as observed by the study participants were closely linked to and align with and sometimes even reinforce ideologies about ethnicity, national belonging and power in Sri Lankan society.

This is a virtual presentation:

Sheila Luna
Friday, Apr. 15, 2022, 9 a.m.

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