Cultural and core borrowings reclassified: A corpus-based study of Sri Lankan English vocabulary


  • S.R. Ilangakoon Department of English Language Teaching, University of Colombo
  • W.M. Wijeratne Department of Linguistics, University of Kelaniya
  • C.D. Senaratne Department of English Language Teaching, University of Kelaniya


World Englishes/ Varieties of English show variation from British English (BrE) through distinct linguistic processes that highlight their uniqueness. Borrowing is one such process that enhances the vocabulary of a distinct English variety used in a particular country due to the effect of the local languages. Literature on borrowing proposes that they can be classified as cultural and core borrowings. This classification encapsulates the reasons for borrowing words from a different language by its users. The term cultural borrowings denote words that are transferred from another language to fill a lexical gap, while the term core borrowings are words that already occur in the language. This paper, a part of an ongoing PhD study, explores whether this binary classification adequately accounts for the types of borrowings found in Sri Lankan English (SLE) recorded in the Sri Lankan component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-SL). The study first extracted a word list using a corpus analysis software, from which the borrowings were manually selected. This was followed by a Google search for the etymology of the words to ascertain the origin of the borrowings that could help to identify whether they filled a lexical gap or duplicated words that already exist. The data indicated that words were borrowed from Sinhala and Tamil, the two official languages of Sri Lanka, as well as other languages. Based on the analysis, this paper proposes that the binary categorization of core and cultural borrowings should be extended to four categories in order to capture the local and regional borrowings that exist within cultural borrowings, as well as to reflect the complexity of meanings identified within core borrowings.

KEYWORDS:   Borrowings, core borrowings, cultural borrowings, World Englishes, corpus linguistics