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Sri Lanka: Whether there are recognizable and distinct Batticaloa and Jaffna accents of Tamil language-speakers, and whether it is possible to determine an individual's place of origin based on his/her accent

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 April 1998
Citation / Document Symbol LKA29169.E
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sri Lanka: Whether there are recognizable and distinct Batticaloa and Jaffna accents of Tamil language-speakers, and whether it is possible to determine an individual's place of origin based on his/her accent, 1 April 1998, LKA29169.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aaf99c.html [accessed 21 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

According to Sri Lanka: A Travel Survival Kit, there are two different Tamil groups in Sri Lanka (Noble May 1993, 25). The first group is called the Sri Lanka or Ceylon Tamils who first arrived in Sri Lanka approximately 1000 years ago and are concentrated primarily in the North and along the eastern coast. The second group is known as the 'Hill Country' or 'Plantation' Tamils whose ancestors were brought over in the 19th century from India by the British to work on the tea plantations (ibid.). This report further states that "the Hill country Tamils and the Sri Lanka Tamils are separated by geography, history and caste. ... [as ] the hill country Tamils come mainly from lower Indian castes and have largely kept out of the bloody conflict with the Sinhalese over the last 10 years" (ibid.).

Response to Information Request LKA8598 of 14 May 1991, available at Regional Documentation Centres, provides information on the differences between the Tamil language spoken in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and that spoken in Sri Lanka.

The following information has been quoted directly from a Jaffna Internet Webpage at . According to the Webpage itself, this information was "made up of a series of direct cullings from a publication titled "JAFFNA" published by the Government Department of Information and printed by the Government Department of Printing in 1983, but which for some curious reason was never issued for public release." This Jaffna Webpage presents the information as having been published by Tamil Information & Research Unit (TIRU) in July 1986 but revised on 24 December 1995.

According to the Culture section, "today the people of Jaffna speak a language that is not readily understood by the Tamils of South India."

The Language section states that

Tamil is the language of more than ninety-five percent of the people in the Jaffna District. Jaffna Tamil is identified as a dialect of Tamil, differing in many ways from the other dialects of Tamil, both in Sri Lanka and in South India. When a Jaffna man speaks his dialect in Madras, he is often mistaken for a Malayali. Jaffna Tamil and Malayalam have certain common linguistic [sic] that are not found in South Indian Tamil. Both preserve certain archaic words which have gone out of vogue in South Indian Tamil. Consequently many consider the Jaffna dialect to be a purer form of Tamil.

Information on a Batticaloa dialect or accent in the Tamil language could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Response to Information Request LKA27583.E of 22 August 1997, available at Regional Documentation Centres, provides brief information on whether the various Tamil dialects are mutually intelligible, with specific reference to Tamil-speakers from Jaffna, Colombo and Batticaloa.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Jaffna Web Pages. July 1986, revised 24 December 1995. "Jaffna: A Profile." [Internet]  [Accessed 22 Apr. 1998]

Noble, John et al. May 1993. Sri Lanka: A Travel Survival Kit. Hawthorne, Vic., Australia: Lonely Planet Publications.

Additional Sources Consulted

Ethnologue. 1992, 1996. Edited by Barbara F. Grimes.

Katzner, Kenneth. 1986. The Languages of the World.

     Malherbe, Michel. 1983. Les languages de l'humanité.

     The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1989. Vol. 28. 15th ed.

Electronic sources: Internet, IRB Databases.

Oral sources:

Unsuccessful attempts to contact 4 oral sources.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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