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
1 Etymology 2 History
2.1 Stages of historical development 2.2 Phonetic development 2.3 Western vs. Eastern Prakrit features 2.4 Pre-1815 Sinhalese literature
3.1 Substratum influence in Sinhalese 3.2 Influences from neighbouring languages 3.3 Foreign influence 3.4 Influences on other languages 3.5 Numerals
4 Accents and dialects 5 Diglossia 6 Writing system 7 Phonology 8 Morphology
8.1 Nominal morphology
8.1.1 Cases 8.1.2 Number marking 8.1.3 Indefinite article
8.2 Verbal morphology
9 Syntax 10 Semantics
11 See also 12 References 13 Bibliography 14 Further reading 15 External links
Main article: Names of
Sinhalese Prakrit (until 3rd century CE) Proto-Sinhalese (3rd – 7th century CE) Medieval Sinhalese (7th – 12th century CE) Modern Sinhalese (12th century – present)
Phonetic development The most important phonetic developments of the Sinhalese language include
the loss of the aspiration distinction (e.g. kanavā "to eat"
Western vs. Eastern Prakrit features
An example for a Western feature in Sinhalese is the retention of
initial /v/ which developed into /b/ in the Eastern languages (e.g.
the distinction between short e, o and long ē, ō the loss of aspiration left-branching syntax the use of the attributive verb of kiyana "to say" as a subordinating conjunction with the meanings "that" and "if", e.g.:
ඒක අළුත් කියලා මම දන්නවා
ēka aḷut kiyalā mama dannavā
it new having-said I know
"I know that it is new."
ඒක අළුත්ද කියලා මම දන්නේ නැහැ
ēka aḷut-da kiyalā mama dannē nähä
it new-? having-said I know-EMP not
"I do not know whether it is new."
As a result of centuries of colonial rule, modern Sinhalese contains
some Portuguese, Dutch and English loanwords.
Influences on other languages
ආයුබෝවන් (āyubōvan) means "welcome", literally wishing one a long life
a/ā ä/ǟ i/ī u/ū [ŗ] e/ē [ai] o/ō [au] k [kh] g [g] ṅ c [ch] j [jh] [ñ] ṭ [ṭa] ṭ [ṭh] ḍ [ḍh] ṇ t [th] d [dh] n p [ph] b [bh] m y r l v [ś ṣ] s h ḷ f
Sinhalese vowel chart, from Perera & Jones (1919:5)
The presence of so-called prenasalized consonants. A very short homorganic nasal is added before a voiced stop consonant. The nasal is syllabified with the onset of the following syllable, which means that the moraic weight of the preceding syllable is left unchanged.
Labial Dental/ Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n̪ ɳ ɲ ŋ
Stop voiceless p t̪ ʈ tʃ k
voiced b d̪ ɖ dʒ ɡ
prenasalised ᵐb ⁿd̪ ᶯɖ
Fricative (f) s
Approximant ʋ l
Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i iː
Mid e eː ə
Open æ æː a aː
Morphology Nominal morphology The main features marked on Sinhalese nouns are case, number, definiteness and animacy. Cases 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
NOM miniha(ː) potə minissu pot
ACC miniha(ː)və potə minissu(nvə) pot
INSTR miniha(ː) atiŋ poteŋ minissu(n) atiŋ potvəliŋ
DAT miniha(ː)ʈə potəʈə minissu(ɳ)ʈə potvələʈə
ABL miniha(ː)geŋ poteŋ minissu(n)geŋ potvaliŋ
GEN miniha(ː)ge(ː) pote(ː) minissu(ŋ)ge(ː) potvələ
LOC miniha(ː) laᵑgə pote(ː) minissu(n) laᵑgə potvələ
VOC miniho(ː) - minissuneː -
Gloss man book men books
Number marking 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.
SG ammaː deviyaː horaː pothə reddə kanthoːruvə sathiyə bus ekə paːrə
PL amməla(ː) deviyo(ː) horu poth redi kanthoːru sathi bus paːrəval
Gloss mother(s) god(s) thief(ves) book(s) cloth(es) office(s) week(s) bus(ses) street(s)
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. Indefinite article 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. Verbal morphology 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.
verb verbal adjective verb verbal adjective verb verbal adjective
present (future) kanəvaː kanə arinəvaː arinə pipenəvaː pipenə
past kæːvaː kæːvə æriyaː æriyə pipunaː pipunə
anterior kaːlaː kaːpu ærəlaː ærəpu pipilaː pipicca
simultaneous kanə kanə / ka kaa(spoken) / arinə arinə / æra æra(spoken) / pipenə pipenə/ pipi pipi(spoken) /
infinitive kannə/kanḍə / arinnə/arinḍə / pipennə/pipenḍə /
emphatic form kanneː / arinneː / pipenneː /
gloss eat / open / blossom /
Left-branching language (see branching), which means that determining elements are usually put in front of what they determine (see example below). SOV (subject–object–verb) word order, common to most left-branching languages. As a left-branching language, there are no prepositions, only postpositions (see Adposition). Example: "under the book" translates to පොත යට /pot̪ə yaʈə/, literally "book under". There are almost no conjunctions as English that or whether, but only non-finite clauses that are formed by the means of participles and verbal adjectives. Example: "The man who writes books" translates to පොත් ලියන මිනිසා /pot̪ liənə miniha/, literally "books writing man". An exception to this is statements of quantity which usually stand behind what they define. Example: "the four flowers" translates to මල් හතර /mal hat̪ərə/, literally "flowers four". On the other hand, it can be argued that the numeral is the head in this construction, and the flowers the modifier, so that a better English rendering would be "a floral foursome" Sinhalese has no copula: "I am rich" translates to මම පොහොසත් /mamə poːsat̪/, literally "I rich". There are two existential verbs, which are used for locative predications, but these verbs are not used for predications of class-membership or property-assignment, unlike English is.
Semantics 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". Discourse 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 [koɦed̪ə ɡie], literally "where went", can mean "where did I/you/he/she/we... go". See also
Sinhala honorifics Sinhala Idioms and Proverbs Sinhala keyboard Sinhala slang Sinhalese people
^ a b Sinhalese at
Gair, James: Sinhala and Other South Asian Languages, New York 1998.
Indrapala, Karthigesu (2007). The evolution of an ethnic identity: The
Clough, B. (1997). Sinhala English Dictionary (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. Gair, James; Paolillo, John C. (1997). Sinhala. Newcastle: München. Gair, James (1998). Studies in South Asian Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509521-9. Geiger, Wilhelm (1938). A Grammar of the Sinhalese Language. Colombo. Karunatillake, W.S. (1992). An Introduction to Spoken Sinhala. Colombo. [several new editions]. Zubair, Cala Ann (2015). "Sexual violence and the creation of an empowered female voice". Gender and Language. Equinox. 9 (2): 279–317. doi:10.1558/genl.v9i2.17909. (Article on the use of slang amongst Sinhalese Raggers.)
Look up सिंहल in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Sinhala edition of, the free encyclopedia
Look up Sinhala in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Sinhala.
Charles Henry Carter. A Sinhalese-English dictionary. Colombo: The "Ceylon Observer" Printing Works; London: Probsthain & Co., 1924. Simhala Sabdakosa Karyamsaya. Sanksipta Simhala Sabdakosaya. Kolamba : Samskrtika Katayutu Pilibanda Departamentuva, 2007-2009. Madura Online English-Sinhala Dictionary and Language Translator Kapruka Sinhala dictionary Sinhala dictionary resources online Sinhala Dictionary Sinhala Script Sinhala dictionary (Beta) Sinhala for iOS Sinhala Dictionary for Android
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