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Visiting researchers

Dr Amal Gunasena

Visiting Senior Research Fellow 

img046Email: ag42@soas.ac.uk
Address: Department of Theology & Religious Studies
King's College London
Virginia Woolf Building 
22 Kingsway
LONDON
WC2B 6LE

 

 

Biography

Dr. Amal Gunasena studied Sinhala Language and Literature, Pali and Archaeology at the University of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Peradeniya for the B.A. Honours degree. Soon after his graduation (1969), he was appointed as an assistant lecturer in the Department of Sinhala.

Dr. Gunasena was awarded a Ford Foundation research scholarship in 1970 by the University of York, England to embark on his research in linguistics. After obtaining  a B.Phil. degree in Structural and Socio- linguistics from York (1972), he joined the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London to pursue his research studies and obtained his Ph.D. on linguistic purism (1976).

Dr. Gunasena has a distinguished university teaching career extending over thirty five years. He has served as Assistant Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at the universities of Sri Lanka and York. Since 2004, he has held the position of Senior Teaching Fellow in charge of Sinhala at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

In addition to Dr. Gunasena’s university teaching career, he has held the positions of Principal Examiner, Senior Assessor  and Advisor for Sinhala Language for the following Examination Authorities:

Cambridge University; Edexcel; International Baccalaureate and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Sinhala and Pali grammatical works from the 13th – 20th century A.D.
  • Buddhist and Literary revival in Sri Lanka during the 18th -19th century A.D.  
  • Sinhala Buddhist literature from the 9th century to the 15h century A.D. (both prose and poetry)
  • Hugh Neville Collection and Buddhist Meditation manuals in Sri Lanka (18th-20th century)
  • New Trends in modern spoken Sinhala

My current research includes linguistic purism and how to succeed in learning a new language –latest approaches including modern technology and the Discovery Method as against the traditional and prescriptive models.  I hope to publish my Complete Sinhala learners’ book based on my research by the end of 2017. Other areas of my current research relating to language and society are:  ‘Developing a unitary Sri Lankan state through a Trilingual Policy’ and ‘Anglicisation of modern spoken Sinhala, its dynamics and effects on standardisation’. I also carried out a research project with Dr. William Radice (SOAS) in 2012 to design an undergraduate and postgraduate course on Culture and Ancient Civilization of Sri Lanka.I am also engaged in further research on three major projects:

  1. Boran  Kammatthana Meditation manuals and practice with Prof. Kate Crosby at King’s College and Dr. Andrew Skilton at King’s and Oxford.
  2. Buddhist Meditation Manuals in Sri Lanka and the Hugh Neville’s catalogue of Sinhala and Pali manuscripts in the British Library with Prof. Kate Crosby
  3. Namamala - the Pali grammatical treatise written in the 19th century in Ceylon. Complete translation and commentary.  The introduction will be published soon. 
Selected publications

Book Chapters:

‘Formation of a developed unitary Sri Lankan state through a trilingual culture after the influence of the social transformation from the British period to modern times’. D.A.Rajapaksa Commemorative Publication, November 2012. Colombo, Sri Lanka.

‘Mary Elizabeth Foster: One of the greatest benefactors of Buddhism’, Anagarika Dharmapala, Published by the London Buddhist Vihara, 2014, pp. 87-97

Journal articles:

Kotte Yugaye Simhala Sahityaya’, in Piyawara, University of Sri Lanka Journal, pp. 23-29, 1974.

Sutta on Understanding Death in the Transmission of boran Meditation from Siam to the Kandyan Court’, Crosby, Kate, Skilton, Andrew and Gunasena, Amal, in Journal of Indian Philosophy, 40(2), 2012 pp. 177-198. 

‘Anagarika Dharmapala – leading propagator of Buddhism in the West’, in The Middle Way, Journal of the Buddhist Society, London, August 2014, pp. 91-102.

Teaching

I was a senior lecturer in Sinhala language and literature and was also in charge of teaching Sinhala to foreign students at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. I was mainly responsible for designing and producing course material and visual/audio aids for spoken Sinhala courses and also for literary Sinhala for both home and overseas students.

I have been solely responsible for (1) teaching Sinhala to both undergraduate and post graduate students (2) for designing comprehensive course material and teaching aids and (3) for preparing syllabi for Sinhala undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the Department of South Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I have also prepared course material and have taught Sinhala language at the Language Centre (SOAS) for the evening courses for external candidates and at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.  My students have achieved excellent results for Sinhala. 

My specialist teaching areas:  Sinhala language and literature, Culture and Ancient Civilisation of Sri Lanka, modern spoken Sinhala, Sinhala Language and Literature during the Kandyan Kingdom (1747-1815), Mixed Sinhala Prose -Sanskriticization of modern literary Sinhala (1849-1956).

Expertise and public engagement

My expertise includes problems of literacy, linguistic diversity,  language, culture and history of Sri Lanka.  I was a member of the Regional Dialect survey and Vedda Language of  Sri Lanka (1969-70). I have participated as chief guest at British and Sri Lankan community centres and have delivered keynote speeches on varied topics.

In 2012, I was honoured by the President of Sri Lanka by inviting me to deliver the 45th D.A.Rajapaksa Commemorative Oration and was awarded the President’s Medal for my outstanding contribution to Sri Lanka’s language and culture. The full coverage of the ceremony was published in the daily newspapers and my lecture was broadcast by the national television for a number of days.

I have served as an expert witness to the HM High Court on an issue relating to Special educational needs and ability to acquire a second language.

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