Tuesday, August 30, 2005
“Be” Or Not “Be” in Sri Lanka
BE variation in Sri Lankan English
The focus of this article is zero copula use in Sri Lankan English speech. Zero copula use has been at the heart of variationist studies, but has received little attention in New English studies because of its limited use in these varieties. In this article I look at zero copula in Sri Lankan English to determine whether the patterns of use parallel those of AAVE, Caribbean Creoles, or other copula studies on varieties of English including New Englishes.
The theoretical issue raised in this article is whether zero copula use in Sri Lankan English can be seen as both a creole-like feature and an optional syntactic feature of those who use English a lot, but for whom it is not a native language, or as a substratal influence in language shift. The variable findings for present tense BE demonstrate that speakers of Sri Lankan English make only limited use of BE absence. BE absence appears to be optional in certain environments where Standard English would require the are copula/auxiliary. Zero copula use in Sri Lankan English speech is especially interesting because Sri Lankan English emerged from an educational background and not from a creole setting. However, the linguistic data for zero copula use in Sri Lankan English suggests that the type of complement and the preceding phonological environment play a significant role on zero copula use, which is comparable to that of other varieties of English, focusing on the study of BE absence. ...
Afew examples from my data in which BE is not realized where it would appear
in Standard English either as a copula or auxiliary are given next. These examples
exemplify the fact that the realization of BE depends to a great extent on the type
of grammatical environment that follows the verb.
(14) AP: My father and mother ^ Sinhala teachers (Predicate Nominal)
(15) VM: People ^ worried that it can have some dangers (Past Participle)
(16) ST: I never take them to the street stall, I said, you know, these places ^ very bad
(17) LB: What people ^ saying is