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Directives in Sinhala: Children’s Speech and Adult Child-Directed Speech


L. Abesooriya ,

University of Kelaniya, LK
About L.
Department of English Language Teaching
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K. Perera

University of Colombo, LK
About K.
Department of English
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Directives is an important area of study in child language development and language socialization since it illustrates children’s ability to affect the behavior of others around them by using language. However, we have no account of directives by children in Sinhala. A study of Sinhala directives by children is important given that research on diverse languages contribute to significant changes in our knowledge of both the typology and the linguistic resources used for directives in general. The main aim of this study is to record the forms of directives used by children speaking Sinhala as a first language. Sinhala, the dominant language of Sri Lanka, is little studied in terms of pragmatics. Therefore, a secondary purpose of this study is to contribute to the knowledge of Sinhala pragmatics. Using recorded data and observation from children and their caregivers, this paper studies the use of Sinhala directives by middle class children and their adult caretakers in Sri Lanka. The study shows that children from 2-4 years of age are able to use directives appropriate to their pragmatic function. It also shows surprising findings on children’s use of (im)polite language, an area that needs more research.
How to Cite: Abesooriya, L. and Perera, K., 2019. Directives in Sinhala: Children’s Speech and Adult Child-Directed Speech. OUSL Journal, 14(1), pp.121–138. DOI:
Published on 15 Aug 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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