Sinhala language

Spoken in

  • Indo-European languages Indo-Iranian languages Indo-Aryan languages Island Indo-Aryan languages Singhalese




Sinhala is the language of the Sinhalese, the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian subgroup of the Indo-European languages. It is also the proper name of the සිංහල (ISO 15919: Simhala spoken siŋhələ ) derived Sinhala name used.

It is predominantly spoken by about 16 million people in Sri Lanka, where she is also an official language since 1958. It is next to Tamil one of the two national languages ​​of Sri Lanka. English was the official language until 1957 and today also stops the status as transport and educational language. Sinhala has its own writing (see Sinhala font ).

The most closely related with the Sinhala language is Dhivehi spoken in the Maldives.


The first element ( Simha and SiHa ) in Sinhala (actually Sanskrit ) and the corresponding Middle Indic word Sihala means " lion". According to legend Sīhabāhu ( " Löwenarm ") was the son of a Vanga princess and a lion. After he had killed his father, he became king of Vanga. His son Vijaya was banished from his kingdom, therefore Vijaya migrated to Lanka and was the progenitor of the Sinhalese. Because of these linguistic and mythological evidence, one can assume that the first part of the word "lion" means.

The local tradition brings the second element la either " take " in connection with the Sanskrit root lā, and translates it " Löwenergreifer " or " lion -killer ", or Sanskrit loha / Sinhala Lê " blood ", that translates to " lion blood ". From the linguistic point of view, however, none of the interpretations is convincing. With safety can only be said that the word Sinhala is related to the word for "lion" in conjunction.


In the 5th century BC arrived settlers from northwest India to the island Lamka who spoke a Western Prakrit. In the following centuries, there was substantial immigration from the North East of India ( Kalinga, Magadha ) which led to an admixture of characteristics of the eastern Prakrits.

First Sinhala inscriptions are known from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, the oldest literary evidence comes from the 10th century AD

Stages of development

The development of the Sinhala language is commonly divided into four sections:

  • Sinhala Prakrit ( to the 3rd century AD)
  • Proto - Sinhala (3rd - 7th century)
  • Medieval Sinhala (7th - 12th century)
  • Modern Sinhala (12th century to the present)

Western and Eastern characteristics

An example of a Western feature in Sinhala is the retention of / v / in word-initial, located in the eastern Indo-Aryan languages ​​to / b / developed (eg Sanskrit viṃśati " twenty ", Sinhala visi -, Hindi to). An example of an Eastern feature is the ending- e for the nominative singular in masculine ( rather than Western -o) in Sinhala Prakrit.

There are numerous cases of mixed vocabulary, eg the words mässā ( "Fly " ) and mäkkā ( " flea "), which both correspond to Sanskrit makṣikā but scrub from the two Prakritwörtern different regional and makkhikā ( as in Pali ) originated are.

Phonetic development

The most important characteristic phonetic development of the Sinhalese are

  • The loss of aspirated plosives (eg corresponds Kanava "eat" khādati Sanskrit and Hindi Khana
  • The reduction of all the vowels ( cf. example above ) [ Long vowels in modern Sinhalese are due to borrowings (eg vibāgaya " exam " < Sanskrit vibhāga ) and Sandhiphänomene (either elision of intervocalic consonants [eg Danava "Set, put " < damanavā ] or on word boundaries in compound words )
  • The simplification of consonant clusters and geminate consonants or geminates simple consonants (eg Sanskrit Vista "time" > Singhal. Vitta Prakrit > Modern Singh. VITA)
  • The development of / j / to / d / (eg corresponds däla " network " Sanskrit Jala )

Similarities with neighboring languages

The Sinhalese are geographically separated by the Dravidian -speaking Indo-Aryan languages ​​of the other in North and Central India. It has over the years not only numerous loan words from neighboring languages, particularly the Tamil added, but also syntactic and phonetic characteristics; in the area of ​​syntax, it is the ( South-) Dravidian very close. Some of the characteristics that are likely to include Dravidian influence are

  • The distinction between short / e / and / o / and long / ē / and / ō /
  • The loss of aspiration
  • The pronounced linksverzweigende word order
  • The use of a verbal adjective of kiyanavā "say" as a subordinating conjunction with the meanings " that" and "if" (eg eka alut kiyalā mama dannavā " the having - said new I know " = " I know that it is new " Eka alut -da kiyalā mama Danne nähä " the newly -? - having said I do not know " =" I do not know if it is new " )

European influence

Over the course of four centuries of colonial rule Sinhalese has taken many loanwords from Portuguese, Dutch and English.


In Sinhalese there is, as in many languages ​​of the Indian subcontinent, a pronounced diglossic situation: Scripture and the spoken language differ in many respects widely. The written language is used for all forms of written texts, but also orally at formal occasions (public speeches, television and radio news, etc. ), while the vernacular is a general lingua franca of everyday life. The biggest difference is the lack of inflected verb forms in the vernacular. The situation can be thought of as if in German-speaking the written language would be medium or even Old High German. The written language is almost learned by the children in the school as a foreign language.


Sinhala is usually written in Sinhala script.

Characteristics of spoken Sinhala

The Sinhala colloquial language has the following characteristics:

  • SOV ( subject-object -verb ) word order.
  • There is no subordinate clauses as in English, but only infinite subordinate clauses, which are formed by means of participles and verbal adjectives. Example: " The man who writes books " is pot liənə Miniha, literally " books writing man."
  • It is a linksverzweigende language that is descriptive elements are usually placed in front of what they determine (see example above ).
  • An exception to represent quantities that are almost always behind, they determine. Example: " the four books " is pot hatərə, literally " four books ".
  • There are no prepositions, only postpositions. Example: "in the book " is potə jaʈə, literally " book under ".
  • Sinhala is a pro -drop language and a null subject language: the subject can be omitted if it is clear from the context. Example: The set kohedə energy, literally " where went ", can mean "Where did you go " (or " is he ...", "them", "we", etc.).
  • The copula ( "to be" ), is generally omitted ( "zero copula " language ): "I am rich " is mamə po ː sat, literally, " I rich."
  • The deixis in four stages ( which is extremely rare): There are four demonstrative stems (see demonstrative pronoun ) me ː " here, close to the speaker ," o ː " there, close to the person addressed ," arə " because, with a third party, in the visible range " and e ː " there, by a third party, non-visible ".
  • The occurrence of so-called " Halbnasalen " or " pränasalisierten closure sounds ." This is the voiced closure sounds a very short homorganer Nasal proposed ( nd, mb, etc.), with the corresponding syllable remains einmorig (see Mora (unit) ).