Sinhalese, also known as Sinhala, is the native language of the Sinhala people. Over 16 million Sinhala people live in Sri Lanka, making them the island’s largest ethnic group. Sinhala people can trace their origins from Indians who traveled to Sri Lanka around 540 BC.
Most Sinhalese speakers live in Sri Lanka, but Sinhala is also used in the UAE, Thailand, Singapore, and Canada. The word Sinhala comes from a Sanskrit term meaning “lion-blood.” This refers to Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala people. According to myths, Prince Vijaya descended from the legendary King Sinhabahu, who was the son of a princess and a lion.
Want to learn more about this language? Keep reading to discover five fascinating facts about Sinhalese.
- Sinhala is a syllabic language
The Sinhala language is syllabic and each consonant has an inherent vowel. Vowels that fall at the beginning of a syllable appear as a separate letter. This language, which reads left to right, descended from the Brahimi script. There are 58 letters in this language, although only 38 are used on a regular basis. Besides Sinhalese, the Sinhala script is also used for writing Pali and Sanskrit.
- Sinhala follows the subject-object-verb word order
Like other Asian languages, Sinhala follows the subject-object-verb word order. Korean and Japanese also use this sentence structure. In comparison, English follows the subject-verb-object word order. This order sometimes changes, but the basic Sinhalese sentence structure follows this order.
- The first recorded use of Sinhala dates to 200 BC
Historians discovered rock carvings that they believe show the first use of Sinhala. These carvings date to 200 BC. This language changed and developed over time. By 1250, a literary Sinhala language formed that has remained intact. Pronunciations have changed, but Sinhalese today is comparable to the 1250 version.
- Sinhala is a diglossic language
Sinhala is diglossic, meaning there are two coexisting versions of the language. One is for everyday communication while the other is a formal version for literature. Grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation differences exist between the two versions. Native speakers understand both versions, but the colloquial version is used most often.
- Sinhala is one of the two official languages of Sri Lanka
In the 1950s, Sinhala became one of Sri Lanka’s official languages. Over 16 million people use Sinhala as their first language. Another 4 million people speak Sinhala as their second language. Tamil, which is spoken by about 5 million people, is Sri Lanka’s other official language. English is also spoken in Sri Lanka, although it is not considered an official language.
Now that you know more about Sinhala, let’s practice some basic terms:
Sinhala, one of Sri Lanka’s official languages, is an ancient language that is still spoken by millions of people. It is very important to use Sinhala if you are traveling or conducting business in Sri Lanka. To learn more about ALTA’s Sinhala translation services, please contact us today.
Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based travel blogger and freelance content creator.
You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.