Project Highlight: Documentation of Sri Lanka Portuguese

Today on the ELAR blog, we are featuring an ELDP project highlight from one of our grantees, Hugo Cardoso, who is researching the creole language Sri Lanka Portuguese (also known as Sri Lanka Creole Portuguese or Burgher Portuguese).

Mahesh Radhakrishnan (team member) addressing an audience of students and faculty of the Swami Vipulananda Institute of Aesthetic Studies (Batticaloa, Sri Lanka) during a seminar given by the project team, on October 25th, 2017. Photo taken by Hugo Cardoso.

Impact on Community/Speakers:

One of the characteristics of this project is that it combines language documentation with ethnomusicological research – for reasons that have to do with the community’s contributions to overall Sri Lankan culture in this respect. In our project, music, song and dance are not only objects of documentation but also topics of conversation, and are seen as instruments of linguistic transmission and preservation. We have attempted to interview as many musicians and singers as possible and, in the process, have had the opportunity to record some performers who have not been musically active for years. The fact that the expertise of these musicians is recorded and made available has brought to the fore the diversity of the community’s musical traditions, including in terms of lyrics as well as instruments.

Patrícia Costa (team member) checking transcriptions of previous recordings with consultant Mr. Boris Lappen, in Trincomalee. Photo taken by Mahesh Radhakrishnan.

Scientific highlight:

The process of transcribing, glossing and translating our recordings has already revealed many lexemes that had not been recorded by earlier research on Sri Lanka Portuguese, especially in some occupational domains which we have documented (such as carpentry, blacksmithing, tailoring, or cooking). Most of these lexemes are of Portuguese origin, many are of English origin (which is not surprising, considering the current role of English in Sri Lanka) but, interestingly, many are also of Dutch origin. This fact is diachronically significant, as it situates that particular lexical layer somewhere between the mid-17th century and the late 18th century (the Dutch period of Sri Lanka colonial history), and important to call into question an often-propagated dichotomy between the Portuguese Burghers and the Dutch Burghers of Sri Lanka.

Consultant Mrs. Philomena Jonathan during a recording session, in Trincomalee (Sri Lanka). Photo taken by Patrícia Costa. Videos of this interview can be accessed on ELAR here and here.

Hugo Cardoso (team member) recording a song performance by Mr. Gilbert Outschoorn, in Batticaloa (Sri Lanka). Photo taken by Mahesh Radhakrishnan.

Thank you, Hugo! You can learn more about Hugo’s work and about Sri Lanka Portuguese by visiting Hugo’s deposit on the ELAR catalogue, here.

Hugo Cardoso (team member) recording a song performance by Mr. Gilbert Outschoorn, in Batticaloa (Sri Lanka). Photo taken by Mahesh Radhakrishnan.

-Highlight by Hugo Cardoso

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