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|Sri Lanka Portuguese Creoles|
|The Creole served as a lingua franca|
Portuguese Creoles once flourished in the coastal towns of India, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, Singapore, and Macao but are a dying race. Sri Lanka Portuguese
Creole was the successful solution to the intercommunication problems that
arose when the Portuguese and Sri Lankans came into contact from the
sixteenth century. The Creole served as a lingua franca, the language for
external communication and trade purposes, for about three and a half
centuries, until English took over this role.
In today's Sri Lanka, the Creole is limited to the spoken form. Most of the speakers are the Burghers in the Eastern province Batticaloa and Trincomalee). But there are also the Kaffirs (people of African origin) in the Northwestern province (Puttalam). The Portuguese, Dutch and British brought the Kaffirs to Sri Lanka, for labour purposes. They have assumed Portuguese culture and religion; later, there was intermarriage between them and the Portuguese Burghers.
.At the 1981 Census, the Burghers (Dutch
and Portuguese) were almost 40,000 (0,3% of the population of Sri Lanka).
But, the Portuguese Creole is losing ground as a spoken language. As the Sri
Lanka Portuguese Creole is now only used at home and many are unable to
speak the Creole very well, it is endangered. Many Burghers and Kaffirs
emigrated to other countries. There are still 100 families in Batticaloa and
Trincomalee and 80 Kaffir families in Puttalam that still speak the
Portuguese Creole; they have been out of contact with Portugal since 1656.
|By SHIHAN DE SILVA JAYASURIYA|
|University College London|
Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole
The Hugh Nevill Collection in the British Library
contains 2,227 manuscripts written in Sinhala, Malayalam Tamil, and Pali.
Among the Oriental collection of Hugh Nevill manuscripts, lies an authentic
source of Portuguese Creole which also represents the largest collection of
Asian Portuguese Creole folk verse: the Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole
Among the Oriental collection
of Hugh Nevill manuscripts lies an authentic source of Portuguese Creole
which also represents the largest collection of Asian Portuguese Creole folk
verse: the Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole Manuscript. Asian Portuguese Creoles
once flourished in the coastal towns of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,
Singapore, and Macao but are a dying race.
The first two groups were
sung by mother tongue Creole speakers: the Burghers (people of Portuguese
and Dutch descent) and the Kaffirs (people of African descent brought to the
island by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, the three European colonial
powers). Batticaloa is a district in the Eastern Province of the island; the
capital of the district is Batticaloa Town. It has become the cultural
homeland for the Burghers and the Creole community. The roots of their songs
are preserved in this manuscript. The Kaffirs have formed a cultural
homeland near Puttalam in the Northwestern Province. Modern Kaffir songs can
be traced to this manuscript. The story of Valentine and Oersan is known in
Sri Lanka as the Balasanta Nadagama, one of the earliest fully-fledged
theatrical performances in the Sinhala theatre. In English literature,
Valentine and Orson are two figures of romance. In Charles Dickens' A
Christmas Carol Scrooge said: 'And Valentine and his wild brother, Orson,
there they go!'. There are French, English, Dutch, Swedish, Italian,
Spanish, and Icelandic versions of this story. In Sri Lanka there are
variants of this story, in Påli (5th century AD), in Buddhaghoas's
Manorathapurani and in Dharmapala's Paramatthadipani.