University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > World History Workshop > "History of Language and Politics of Linguistic Identity: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian Debate in Sri Lanka"

"History of Language and Politics of Linguistic Identity: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian Debate in Sri Lanka"

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The central concern of this paper is to locate the relationship between language identity and ethnic consciousness in the context of linguistic history, ideologies and language debates of the early twentieth century Sri Lanka. The historical linguistic research in the 1920-1930s stated that the non-Aryan influences – not necessarily Dravidian only, but pre-Dravidian as well have been at work in the development of the Sinhala language. These linguistic research and discoveries led to many controversies among scholars on the issue of origin of Sinhala and its Indo-Aryan linguistic character. In this period, language became more important than religion and it shows the utilisation of language over religion as an identity marker. The Indo-Aryan vs Dravidian debate of the Sinhala language that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s was a good example for this sociolinguistic situation. By focussing on this debate, this paper discusses how the history of language and growth of linguistic consciousness generated new definitions of linguistic identity and linguistic differentiation between the Sinhalese and Tamils.

This talk is part of the World History Workshop series.

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