Sinhalese (/ˌsɪn(h)əˈliːz, ˌsɪŋ(ɡ)ə-/), known natively as Sinhala (Sinhalese: සිංහල; siṁhala [ˈsiŋɦələ]), is the native language of the Sinhalese people, who make up the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, numbering about 16 million. Sinhalese is also spoken as a second language by other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, totalling about four million. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Sinhalese is written using the Sinhalese script, which is one of the Brahmic scripts, a descendant of the ancient Indian Brahmi script closely related to the Kadamba script.
The oldest Sinhalese Prakrit inscriptions found are from the third to second century BCE following the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the oldest extant literary works date from the ninth century. The closest relative of Sinhalese is the Maldivian language. Sinhalese is of two main varieties – written and spoken. it is a good example of the linguistic phenomenon known as diglossia.
|Native to||Sri Lanka|
|17.0 million (2012)|
3 million L2 speakers (2012)
Official language in
Sinhala (Siṃhāla) is a Sanskrit term; the corresponding Middle Indo-Aryan (Eḷu) word is Sīhala. The name is a derivation from siṃha, the Sanskrit word for "lion" Siṃhāla is attested as a Sanskrit name of the island of in the Bhagavata Purana. The name is sometimes glossed as "abode of lions", and attributed to a supposed former abundance of lions on the island.
According to the chronicle Mahavamsa, written in Pali, Prince Vijaya and his entourage merged with two exotic tribes of ancient India present in Lanka, the Yakkha and Naga peoples. In the following centuries, there was substantial immigration from Eastern India (Kalinga, Magadha) which led to an admixture of features of Eastern Prakrits.
The development of the Sinhalese language is divided into four periods:
The most important phonetic developments of the Sinhalese language include
An example for a Western feature in Sinhalese is the retention of initial /v/ which developed into /b/ in the Eastern languages (e.g. Sanskrit viṃśati "twenty", Sinhalese visi-, Hindi bīs). An example of an Eastern feature is the ending -e for masculine nominative singular (instead of Western -o) in Sinhalese Prakrit. There are several cases of vocabulary doublets, e.g. the words mässā ("fly") and mäkkā ("flea"), which both correspond to Sanskrit makṣikā but stem from two regionally different Prakrit words macchiā and makkhikā (as in Pali).
In 1815 the island of Ceylon came under British rule. During the career of Christopher Reynolds (1922-2015) as a Sinhalese lecturer at the SOAS, University of London, he extensively researched the Sinhalese language and its pre-1815 literature: the Sri Lankan government awarded him the Sri Lanka Ranjana medal for this. He wrote the 377-page An anthology of Sinhalese literature up to 1815, selected by the UNESCO National Commission of Ceylon
According to Wilhelm Geiger, Sinhalese has features that set it apart from other Indo-Aryan languages. Some of the differences can be explained by the substrate influence of the parent stock of the Vedda language. Sinhalese has many words that are only found in Sinhalese, or shared between Sinhalese and Vedda and not etymologically derivable from Middle or Old Indo-Aryan. Common examples are kola for leaf in Sinhalese and Vedda, dola for pig in Vedda and offering in Sinhalese. Other common words are rera for wild duck, and gala for stones (in toponyms used throughout the island). There are also high frequency words denoting body parts in Sinhalese, such as olluva for head, kakula for leg, bella for neck and kalava for thighs, that are derived from pre-Sinhalese languages of Sri Lanka. The author of the oldest Sinhalese grammar, Sidatsangarava, written in the 13th century CE, recognised a category of words that exclusively belonged to early Sinhalese. The grammar lists naramba (to see) and kolamba (fort or harbour) as belonging to an indigenous source. Kolamba is the source of the name of the commercial capital Colombo.
In addition to many Tamil loanwords, several phonetic and grammatical features present in neighbouring Dravidian languages, setting today's spoken Sinhalese apart from its Northern Indo-Aryan siblings, bear witness to the close interactions with Dravidian speakers. However, formal Sinhalese is more similar to Pali and medieval Sinhalese. Some of the features that may be traced to Dravidian influence are –
"I know that it is new."
"I do not know whether it is new."
Macanese Patois or Macau Creole (known as Patuá to its speakers) is a creole language derived mainly from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese, and Portuguese, which was originally spoken by the Macanese people of the Portuguese colony of Macau. It is now spoken by a few families in Macau and in the Macanese diaspora.
The language developed first mainly among the descendants of Portuguese settlers who often married women from Malacca and Sri Lanka rather than from neighbouring China, so the language had strong Malay and Sinhalese influence from the beginning.
Sinhalese shares many features common to other Indo-European languages. Shared vocabulary includes the numbers up to ten.
Sinhalese spoken in the Southern Province (Galle, Matara, Hambantota District and (Puttlam)etc.. uses several words that are not found elsewhere in the country; this is also the case for the Central and North-Central Provinces and south-eastern region (Uva Province and the surrounding area). For native speakers all dialects are mutually intelligible, and they might not even realise that the differences are significant.
The language of the Vedda people resembles Sinhalese to a great extent, although it has a large number of words which cannot be traced to another language. The Rodiya use another dialect of Sinhalese. Rodiya used to be a caste in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka no longer recognizes castes.
In Sinhalese there is distinctive diglossia, as in many languages of South Asia. The literary language and the spoken language differ from each other in many aspects. The written language is used for all forms of literary texts but also orally at formal occasions (public speeches, TV and radio news broadcasts, etc.), whereas the spoken language is used as the language of communication in everyday life (see also Sinhala slang and colloquialism). As a rule the literary language uses more Sanskrit-based words.
Sinhala diglossia can also be described in terms of informal and formal varieties. The variety used for formal purposes is closer to the written/literary variety, whereas the variety used for informal purposes is closer to the spoken variety. It is also used in some modern literature (e.g. Liyanage Amarakeerthi's Kurulu Hadawatha).
The situation is analogous to one where Middle or even Old English would be the written language in Great Britain. The children are taught the written language at school almost like a foreign language.
Sinhalese also has diverse slang. Most slang words and terms were regarded as taboo and most were frowned upon as non-scholarly. However, nowadays Sinhalese slang words and terms, even the ones with sexual references, are commonly used among younger Sri Lankans.
The Sinhalese script, Sinhala hodiya, is based on the ancient Brahmi script, as are most Indian scripts. The Sinhalese script is closely related to South Indian Grantha script and Khmer script taken the elements from the related Kadamba script.
The Sinhalese writing system is an abugida, where the consonants are written with letters while the vowels are indicated with diacritics (pilla) on those consonants, unlike English where both consonants and vowels are full letters, or Urdu where vowels need not be written at all. Also, when a diacritic is not used, an "inherent vowel", either /a/ or /ə/, is understood, depending on the position of the consonant within the word. For example, the letter ක k on its own indicates ka, either /ka/ or /kə/. The various vowels are written කා /kaː/, කැ /kæ/, කෑ /kæː/ (after the consonant), කි /ki/, කී /kiː/ (above the consonant), කු /ku/, කූ /kuː/ (below the consonant), කෙ /ke/, කේ /keː/ (before the consonant), කො /koː/, කෝ /koː/ (surrounding the consonant). There are also a few diacritics for consonants, such as /r/ in special circumstances, although the tendency nowadays is to spell words with the full letter ර /r/, plus either a preceding or following hal kirima. One word that is still spelt with an "r" diacritic is ශ්රී, as in ශ්රී ලංකාව (Sri Lankāwa). The "r" diacritic is the curved line under the first letter ("ශ": "ශ්ර"). A second diacritic, this time for the vowel sound /iː/ completes the word ("ශ්ර": "ශ්රීී"). For simple /k/ without a vowel, a vowel-cancelling diacritic (virama) called හල් නිරීම /hal kiriːmə/ is used: ක් /k/. Several of these diacritics occur in two forms, which depend on the shape of the consonant letter. Vowels also have independent letters but these are only used at the beginning of words where there is no preceding consonant to add a diacritic to.
The complete script consists of about 60 letters, 18 for vowels and 42 for consonants. However, only 57 (16 vowels and 41 consonants) are required for writing colloquial spoken Sinhalese (suddha Sinhala). The rest indicate sounds that have been merged in the course of linguistic change, such as the aspirates, and are restricted to Sanskrit and Pali loan words. One letter (ඦ), representing the sound /ⁿd͡ʒa/, is attested although no words using this letter are attested.
Sinhalese is written from left to right and the Sinhalese script is mainly used for Sinhala, as well as the liturgical languages Pali and Sanskrit. The alphabetic sequence is similar to those of other Brahmic scripts:
Sinhalese has so-called prenasalized consonants, or 'half nasal' consonants. A short homorganic nasal occurs before a voiced stop, it is shorter than a sequence of nasal plus stop. The nasal is syllabified with the onset of the following syllable, which means that the moraic weight of the preceding syllable is left unchanged. For example, tam̆ba 'copper' contrasts with tamba 'boil'.
f/ɸ and ʃ are restricted to loans, typically English or Sanskrit. They are commonly replaced by p and s is colloquial speech. Some speakers use the voiceless dental fricative /f/ as in English phonology, and some use the voiceless bilabial fricative /ɸ/ due to its similarity to the native voiceless bilabial stop /p/.
Long /əː/ is restricted to English loans. /a/ and /ə/ are allophones in Sinhala and contrast with each other in stressed and unstressed syllables respectively. In writing, /a/ and /ə/ are both spelt without a vowel sign attached to the consonant letter, so the patterns of stress in the language must be used to determine the correct pronunciation. Most Sinhala syllables are of the form CV. The first syllable of each word is stressed, with the exception of the verb කරනවා /kərənəˈwaː/ ("to do") and all of its infected forms where the first syllable is unstressed. Syllables using long vowels are always stressed. The remainder of the syllables are unstressed if they use a short vowel, unless they are immediately followed by one of: a CCV syllable, final /j(i)/ (-යි), final /wu/ (-වු), or a final consonant without a following vowel. The sound /ha/ is always stressed in nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, and so is not pronounced /hə/ except in the word හතලිහ /ˈhat̪əlihə/ ("forty"), where the initial /ha/ is stressed and the final /hə/ is unstressed.
The main features marked on Sinhalese nouns are case, number, definiteness and animacy.
Sinhalese distinguishes several cases. Next to the cross-linguistically rather common nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative, there are also less common cases like the instrumental. The exact number of these cases depends on the exact definition of cases one wishes to employ. For instance, the endings for the animate instrumental and locative cases, atiŋ and laᵑgə, are also independent words meaning "with the hand" and "near" respectively, which is why they are not regarded to be actual case endings by some scholars. Depending on how far an independent word has progressed on a grammaticalisation path, scholars will see it as a case marker or not.
The brackets with most of the vowel length symbols indicate the optional shortening of long vowels in certain unstressed syllables.
|animate sg||inanimate sg||animate pl||inanimate pl|
|INSTR||miniha(ː) atiŋ||poteŋ||minissu(n) atiŋ||potvəliŋ|
|LOC||miniha(ː) laᵑgə||pote(ː)||minissu(n) laᵑgə||potvələ|
In Sinhalese animate nouns, the plural is marked with -o(ː), a long consonant plus -u, or with -la(ː). Most inanimates mark the plural through disfix. Loanwords from English mark the singular with ekə, and do not mark the plural. This can be interpreted as a singulative number.
On the left hand side of the table, plurals are longer than singulars. On the right hand side, it is the other way round, with the exception of paːrə "street". Note that [+animate] lexemes are mostly in the classes on the left-hand side, while [-animate] lexemes are most often in the classes on the right hand.
The indefinite article is -ek for animates and -ak for inanimates. The indefinite article exists only in the singular, where its absence marks definiteness. In the plural, (in)definiteness does not receive special marking.
Sinhalese distinguishes three conjugation classes. Spoken Sinhalese does not mark person, number or gender on the verb (literary Sinhalese does). In other words, there is no subject–verb agreement.
|1st class||2nd class||3rd class|
|verb||verbal adjective||verb||verbal adjective||verb||verbal adjective|
|simultaneous||kanə kanə / ka kaa(spoken)||/||arinə arinə / æra æra(spoken)||/||pipenə pipenə/ pipi pipi(spoken)||/|
There is a four-way deictic system (which is rare): There are four demonstrative stems (see demonstrative pronouns) මේ /meː/ "here, close to the speaker", ඕ /oː/ "there, close to the person addressed", අර /arə/ "there, close to a third person, visible" and ඒ /eː/ "there, close to a third person, not visible".
Sinhalese is a pro-drop language: Arguments of a sentence can be omitted when they can be inferred from context. This is true for subject—as in Italian, for instance—but also objects and other parts of the sentence can be "dropped" in Sinhalese if they can be inferred. In that sense, Sinhalese can be called a "super pro-drop language", like Japanese.
Example: The sentence කොහෙද ගියේ [koɦedə ɡie], literally "where went", can mean "where did I/you/he/she/we... go".
Anuruddha (Pali: Anuruddhā; Sinhalese: අනුරුද්ධ මහ රහතන් වහන්සේ) was one of the ten principal disciples and a cousin of Gautama Buddha.Crore
A crore (; abbreviated cr) or koti denotes ten million (10,000,000 or 107 in scientific notation) and is equal to 100 lakh in the Indian numbering system as 1,00,00,000 with the local style of digit group separators (a lakh is equal to one hundred thousand and is written as 1,00,000).Kalu Ganga
Kalu Ganga (Sinhalese: කළු ගඟ; literally: Black River) is a river in Sri Lanka. Measuring 129 km (80 mi) in length, the river originates from Sri Paadhaya and reach the sea at Kalutara. The Black River flows through the Ratnapura and the Kalutara District and pass the city Ratnapura. The mountainous forests in the Central Province and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve are the main sources of water for the river.Kandy District
Kandy District (Sinhalese: මහනුවර දිස්ත්රික්කය, Tamil: கண்டி மாவட்டம்) is a district of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Its area is 1906.3 km². The capital of the district is Kandy.Lakh
A lakh (; abbreviated L; sometimes written Lac or Lacs; Devanāgarī: लाख) is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000; scientific notation: 105). In the Indian convention of digit grouping, it is written as 1,00,000. For example, in India 150,000 rupees becomes 1.5 lakh rupees, written as ₹1,50,000 or INR 1,50,000.
It is widely used both in official and other contexts in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is often used in Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan English. In Pakistan, the word lakh is used mostly in local languages rather than in English media.Mahaweli River
The Mahaweli River (Sinhalese: මහවැලි ගඟ, literally "Great Sandy River"; Tamil: மகாவலி ஆறு [mahawali gangai]), is a 335 km (208 mi) long river, ranking as the longest river in Sri Lanka. Its drainage basin is the largest in the country, and covers almost one-fifth of the total area of the island. The real creation of Mahaweli ganga starts at Polwathura(at Mahawila area), a remote village of Nuwara-Eliya District in bank Nawalapitiya of Kandy District by further joining of Hatton oya and Kotmale oya.The river reaches the Bay of Bengal on the southwestern side of Trincomalee Bay. The bay includes the first of a number submarine canyons, making Trincomalee one of the finest deep-sea harbors in the world.As part of Mahaweli Development programme the river and its tributaries are dammed at several locations to allow irrigation in the dry zone, with almost 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi) of land irrigated. Production of hydroelectricity from six dams of the Mahaweli system supplies more than 40% of Sri Lanka's electricity needs. One of the many sources of the river is the Kotmale Oya.There is a misconception in Sri Lanka that the Mahaweli starts in the Sri Pada mountain. The Mahaweli gets its source waters from Horton Plains in Kirigalpoththa and the Thotupola mountain range.Mannar, Sri Lanka
Mannar (Tamil: மன்னார், translit. Maṉṉār, Sinhalese: මන්නාරම, translit. Mannārama, formerly spelled Manar) is the main town of Mannar District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is governed by an Urban Council. The town is located on Mannar Island overlooking the Gulf of Mannar and is home to the historic Ketheeswaram temple.
Formerly the town was renowned as a center of pearl fishing, mentioned in the 2nd-century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.Mannar is known for its baobab trees and for its fort, built by the Portuguese in 1560 and taken by the Dutch in 1658 and rebuilt; its ramparts and bastions are intact, though the interior is largely destroyed.
Visually, the modern town is dominated by its Hindu temples, mosques and churches. The Catholic Church has a diocese headquartered in the town. By rail the town is connected to the rest of Sri Lanka by the Mannar Line. It was occupied by LTTE during Sri Lankan Civil War between 1983 and 2009.Matale District
Matale District (Sinhalese: මාතලේ දිස්ත්රික්කය, Tamil: மாத்தளை மாவட்டம்) is a district in Central Province, Sri Lanka. Its area is 1,987 km². The administrative capital of the district is the city of Matale.Ministry of Education (Sri Lanka)
The Ministry Of Education (also known as the Education Ministry) (Sinhala: අධ්යාපන අමාත්යාංශය Adhyapana Amathyanshaya) is a ministry of the Government of Sri Lanka that directs the formulation and implementation of policies related to primary and secondary education in Sri Lanka. The ministry is not responsible for tertiary education which comes under the Ministry of Higher Education however two universities do come under the ministry.North Central Province, Sri Lanka
North Central Province (Sinhalese: උතුරු මැද පළාත Uturumeda Palata, Tamil: வட மத்திய மாகாணம் Wada Maththiya Maakaanam) is a province of Sri Lanka. Its capital is Anuradhapura. The province is not densely populated, and it has a weak economy as the land tends to be dry tropical woodlands. Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan president, hails from the North Central Province.Sabaragamuwa Province
The Sabaragamuwa Province, (Sinhalese: සබරගමුව පළාත Sabaragamuwa Palata, Tamil: சபரகமுவ மாகாணம் Sabaragamuwa Maakaanam) is one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the first level administrative division of the country. The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils. The Sabaragamuwa Province contains two districts: Ratnapura and Kegalle. It is named after its former indigenous inhabitants, namely the Sabara, an indic term for hunter-gatherer tribes, a term seldom used in ancient Sri Lanka. Sabaragamuwa University is in Belihuloya.Southern Province, Sri Lanka
The Southern Province (Sinhalese: දකුණු පළාත Dakunu Palata, Tamil: தென் மாகாணம் Thaen Maakaanam) of Sri Lanka is one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the first level administrative division of the country. The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils. It is the 7th largest province by area and is home to 2.5 million people, the 3rd most populated province. The province is bordered by Sabaragamuwa Province and Uva Province to the North, Eastern Province to the Northeast, Western Province to the Northwest and the Indian Ocean to the South, West and East. The Province's capital is Galle.
The Southern Province is a small geographic area consisting of the districts of Galle, Matara and Hambantota. Subsistence farming and fishing is the main source of income for the vast majority of the people of this region. Government School education is primarily handled by the Southern Provincial Education Department.Sri Lanka Muslim Congress
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (Tamil: ஸ்ரீலங்கா முஸ்லீம் காங்கிரஸ், translit. Srīlaṅkā Muslīm Kāṅkiras; Sinhalese: ශ්රී ලංකා මුස්ලිම් කොංග්රසය Sri Lanka Muslim Kongrasaya) is a political party in Sri Lanka.
It is one of the parties that represents the Muslim community of Sri Lanka.Sri Lankan rupee
The rupee (Sinhalese: රුපියල්, Tamil: ரூபாய்) (signs: රු, ரூ, Rs; code: LKR) is the currency of Sri Lanka, divided into 100 cents. It is issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The abbreviation is generally Rs., but "LKR" is occasionally used to distinguish it from other currencies also called rupee.Temple of the Tooth
Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple.
Bhikkhus of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.
The temple sustained damage from bombings by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1989 and by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1998 but was fully restored each time.Upekkha
Upekkhā (in Pali: upekkhā उपेक्खा; Sanskrit: upekṣā उपेक्षा), is the Buddhist concept of equanimity. As one of the Brahma Vihara (meditative states), it is a pure mental state cultivated on the Buddhist path to nirvāna.Vavuniya
Vavuniya (Tamil: வவுனியா, translit. Vavuṉiyā, Sinhalese: වවුනියාව, translit. Vavuniyāva) is a city in the Northern Province, Sri Lanka, governed by an Urban Council. It is also the main settlement in the Vavuniya District.
The Security Forces Headquarters - Wanni is located in Vavuniya. The city has a railway station, which is located on the Northern Line. The Vavuniya airport which is also used by the Sri Lankan Airforce is also located here.Vavuniya is situated in the middle of the Vanni region and is the gate to northern province where people can access all the northern cities quickly.Vīrya
Vīrya (Sanskrit; Pāli: viriya) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "energy", "diligence", "enthusiasm", or "effort". It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions.Śuddhodana
Śuddhodana (Sanskrit: शुद्धोधन; Pali: Suddhōdana), meaning "he who grows pure rice," was a leader of the Shakya, who lived in an oligarchic republic on the Indian subcontinent, with their capital at Kapilavastu. He was also the father of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as Buddha.In later renditions of the life of the Buddha, Śuddhodana was often referred to as a king, though that status cannot be established with confidence and is in fact disputed by modern scholarship.
|Formerly spoken and Extinct|
1a liturgical language 2a dialect of Sinhala
Modern Indo-Aryan languages