Sinhalese (Sinhala) is spoken by the Sinhalese, the largest ethnic group of the island of Sri Lanka. This island was formerly called Ceylon and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. It is located south of the Indian subcontinent at a distance of 880 km from the equator to the north.
Sinhala belongs to the language family of Indo-Iranian (or Indo-Aryan) branch of Indo-Germanic (or Indo-European) languages.
According to some scholars like Wilhelm Geiger Sinhala also contains some autochthon (Väddā) vocabulary which is quite distinctive from the other Indo-Aryan languages. In the course of time Sinhala was especially influenced by the Dravidian languages (especially Tamil), both in vocabulary and syntax, due to the interaction with neighbouring Dravidian folks. During the colonial period between 1505 and 1948 the Sinhala language become rich by borrowing many words and idioms from the Portuguese, Dutch and English languages. Today Sinhala is spoken by about 18 million people. Sinhala has its own script derived from old Brahmi script. As many other modern Indian (or even South Asian) languages there is diglossia in Sinhala, which makes the literary and colloquial language fairly different from each other.
Those who are interested in the culture and history of Sri Lanka and especially the form of Buddhism (Sri Lankan Theravada) existing there acquiring at least some elementary knowledge is indispensable.
- Premalatha JAYAWARDENA-MOSER, Klaus MATZEL: Einführung in die singhalesische Sprache. Harrassowitz Verlag 2001
- Premalatha JAYAWARDENA-MOSER: Grundwortschatz Singhalesisch – Deutsch. Mit grammatischer Übersicht. 3., überarbeitete Auflage. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag2004
- C. H. B. REYNOLDS: Sinhalese: School of Oriental and African Studies. University of London, London 1980.