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Title: Sinhala and Tamil : a case of contact-induced restructuring
Authors: Thampoe, Harold Dharmasenan
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The dissertation presents a comparative synchronic study of the morphosyntactic features of modern spoken Sinhala and Tamil, the two main languages of Sri Lanka. The main motivation of the research is that Sinhala and Tamil, two languages of diverse origins—the New Indo-Aryan (NIA) and Dravidian families respectively—share a wide spectrum of morphosyntactic features. Sinhala has long been isolated from the other NIA languages and co-existed with Tamil in Sri Lanka ever since both reached Sri Lanka from India. This coexistence, it is believed, led to what is known as the contact-induced restructuring that Sinhala morphosyntax has undergone on the model of Tamil, while retaining its NIA lexicon. Moreover, as languages of South Asia, the two languages share the areal features of this region. The research seeks to address the following questions: (i) What features do the two languages share and what features do they not share?; (ii) Are the features that they share areal features of the region or those diffused into one another owing to contact?; (iii) If the features that they share are due to contact, has diffusion taken place unidirectionally or bidirectionally?; and (iv) Does contact have any role to play with respect to features that they do not share? The claim that this research intends to substantiate is that Sinhala has undergone morphosyntactic restructuring on the model of Tamil. The research, therefore, attempts to answer another question: (v) Can the morphosyntactic restructuring that Sinhala has undergone be explained in syntactic terms? The morphosyntactic features of the two languages are analyzed at macro- and micro-levels. At the macro-level, a wide range of morphosyntactic features of Tamil and Sinhala, and those of seven other languages of the region are compared with a view to determining the origins of these features and showing the large scale morphosyntactic convergence between Sinhala and Tamil and the divergence between Sinhala and other NIA languages. At the micro-level the dissertation analyzes in detail two morphosyntactic phenomena, namely null arguments and focus constructions. It examines whether subject/verb agreement, which is different across the two languages, plays a role in the licensing of null arguments in each language. It also examines the nature of the changes Sinhala morphosyntax has undergone because of the two kinds of Tamil focus constructions that Sinhala has replicated. It is hoped, that this dissertation will make a significant contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the morphosyntax of the two languages, the effects of language contact on morphosyntax, and more generally, the nature of linguistic variation.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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